By Bethany Broida and Dan Wilcock
ANNAPOLIS – Maryland State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris resigned Wednesday, just hours after a federal indictment was unsealed that charged him with misusing funds while he was Baltimore Police chief.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. accepted the resignation and immediately named state Secretary of Veterans Affairs Thomas E. Hutchins as acting state police superintendent, subject to the possible reinstatement of Norris, should he be cleared.
“Everyone in public service today . . . has a heavy heart,” a visibly saddened Ehrlich said in a news conference at the State House late Wednesday afternoon.
The governor defended Norris’ record as superintendent and left the door open for his return should he be exonerated. He refused to offer any opinion about Norris’ guilt or innocence.
Norris, who was police chief in Baltimore until 2002 when Ehrlich tapped him for the state’s top police job, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as details of the corruption charges against him emerged.
U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio announced Wednesday that a federal grand jury had indicted Norris and his former Baltimore chief of staff, John Stendrini, on charges that they misused more than $20,000 from three department charitable accounts that were historically used to help city police officers.
The four-count indictment, unsealed Wednesday, charges both men with conspiracy to misapply funds and misallocation of funds. It also charges Norris with one count of making a false statement in a mortgage application and Stendrini with one count of obstruction of justice.
DiBiagio said the indictment charges that Norris used the money to finance affairs with numerous women and to pay for luxury hotels, expensive meals, clothing and gifts from Victoria’s Secret, Coach and other stores.
In order to carry out the scheme, the indictment says Norris and Stendrini submitted false letters that gave the impression that money used for personal gifts, meals and trips was instead going to legitimate business purposes.
DiBiagio said that Norris is also charged with making a false statement on a mortgage application, and that he represented a $9,000 home down payment loan from an employee as a gift from his father.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the obstruction and misapplication counts could bring up to 10 years each, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Making a false statement on a mortgage application could result in up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Norris and Stendrini are expected to surrender to federal authorities Thursday.
Neither Norris nor his attorney could be reached for comment Wednesday evening. State police referred reporters to the governor, who said Norris is expected to issue a statement Thursday.
Hutchins, a former state trooper, took immediate charge of the state police Wednesday.
“I’m here to ensure the continuity of law enforcement operations,” said Hutchins, who was considered for the police superintendent position, but was passed over for Norris.
Hutchins represented Charles County in the House of Delegates for eight years before being appointed to Ehrlich’s Cabinet. He pledged that as acting superintendent he would continue the progress made by Norris.
Lawrence J. Kimble will become acting secretary of veterans affairs.
Norris served as Baltimore police commissioner from May 2000 to 2002 when he left to join the Maryland State Police as superintendent.
He was a 20-year veteran of the New York City police department, where he implemented a crime-tracking program that he brought with him to Baltimore. Under his tenure Baltimore city experienced a 23 percent drop in violent crimes.