Baltimore’s Former Police Commissioner Speaks—the First of a Two-Part Series
As part of a plea bargain in May 2004, Norris pleaded guilty to the first two counts and was sentenced to six months in federal prison, six months of home detention, and 500 hours of community service, which Judge Dick Bennett said must be served in Baltimore.
Earlier this year, during March and April, Norris, who now lives in Tampa, Fla., did four hours of taped interviews with City Paper. He was not given any of the questions ahead of time, and the only queries he did not fully answer were a few that touched on national security issues.
In the first part of the interviews, Norris discusses the six months he spent in federal prison.
City Paper: During your law-enforcement career, you went in and out of jails on a regular basis. How did it feel this time when you went in and heard the gate close and knew that you weren’t coming out?
Edward Norris: It was surreal for me. From the day I got sentenced till the day I got out.
The one night I remember vividly wasn’t so much the first day. I left my family. I didn’t want them to see me off. Some of my friends, who are retired [New York] cops, actually came down and drove me. My father wanted to go, I always refused. Kate [Schultz Norris, his wife], I was not going to let her take me. And [for 5-year-old son] Jack, I prepared a little scam where I bought 26 presents of, like, little toys—action figures, puzzles, games, coloring books. I bought 26 of them and 26 mailing envelopes, and I [gave him the impression I was mailing] them. I wrote his address on each one, and with a card in it. Every week Kate would give him one, so he thought I was mailing him toys from work. I told him, “I got to go away now, Jack. It’ll be a couple of months. I’ll be back, though, and I’ll send you your first toy Friday.” So he was fine with that, he was getting a toy, and I walked out and we drove.
It was a long ride. It was depressing. In Destin, Florida, [we spent] the night, and I knew the next day I was going to be checking into prison. I was trying to make a joke out of it with these two guys. Keep it light, and we did. We went for steak at Outback and went drinking all night. We checked into some small hotel in Destin. Then I woke them up in the morning. I couldn’t sleep much. I was banging on the door: “Let’s go! Let’s get this done! Let’s go!” I didn’t want to delay it and drag my feet.
I woke them up and we had our last meal together. We went out, had a couple beers and a sandwich, and I told them to drive me there. Then we went to the wrong entrance, ’cause [Eglin Air Force Base, home to a federal prison camp] is such a big place. So, I called the number, ya know, and they said wait there and we’ll pick you up. And they sent the prison van for me, and I remember calling Kate and choking up on the phone and saying, “Hey, look, I’m walking into the prison now and I’ll talk to you when I can.” And uh . . . (pause) . . . we didn’t speak for like a week and a half, two weeks. And my buddies got all choked up, and I said, “Look, just go. Don’t even turn around. Get in the car and drive away.” So, I just stood there waiting, and, ya know, once they drove away I got in the van with the guard and he drove me in.
CP: A lot of people here who are old enough remember that when Gov. Marvin Mandel was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering in 1977 he was sent to Eglin. (Mandel’s conviction was overturned after he had served his sentence.) There’s an impression that it’s a “country club” prison with white-collar offenders. Is that the way you found it?
EN: No. I mean, it’s certainly not a “hard-core” prison, but it’s changed a lot since Mandel went to prison, because [the federal government] started accepting drug offenders into the camps. Where Eglin used to be predominately white collar, now it’s approximately 80 percent drug offenders and 20 percent white collar, but [there are] still very few incidents of violence. I wouldn’t call it a country club by any stretch, but it’s still not a bad surrounding. There are trees, a body of water you can look at, there were things to do, ya know—the weight shack, the basketball court, and things like that.
CP: The drug offenders who were there, these were nonviolent drug offenders, right?
EN: Yeah, there could be no crime of violence in their past. But some of these guys are serving very hard time. I mean, they were winding down 15-, 20-year sentences and doing the last portion [at Eglin] if they earned it. They’d have to be model prisoners to earn their way into a camp which, obviously, affords you a lot more freedom.
CP: I saw the picture of you from your prison ID, and you looked kind of like a biker. Why did you grow the beard and mustache and shave your head?
EN: I was trying to disguise myself as best I could because, you know, despite their best efforts, I knew there might be people [there that] I arrested. So I shaved my head. I gained some weight from eating and drinking too much before I went in. I had grown a beard.
I walked in and tried to introduce myself to my new roommates there in the dorm, evading the questions of what I did on the street, and somebody—actually it was Martin Grass, the CEO of Rite Aid—Martin grabbed me. He introduced himself. He said, “Can I talk to you?” He called me outside. He said, “Look, everybody knows who you are. So forget it.” I was like, “Really?” “Yeah.”
Apparently, they have like newspapers that come in. Everyone knew who was expected, so there were newspaper articles all over the place about me. And like all the high-profile inmates, people knew who you were when you got there.
CP: Because you used to be a police officer, did you have trouble with any of the inmates there?
EN: Some, but not much. I mean, ya know, some hard looks and some crummy words exchanged. It’s funny, some of the worst problems I had were with kind of the “softest” inmates.
Some of the guys have been in for a long time and were real “hard-core” or career criminals by their own admission. A friend of mine [in there] admitted to me, “I’m just an outlaw. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ll always do.” And he advised me that it’s not what you did on the outside that matters so much, it’s how you behave in here. And I found him to be right. If you were a jerk inside, you had a really hard time. But if ya learn to obey the unwritten rules, you get along OK.
CP: I’ve observed that there seems to be, in a weird way, a bond between police officers, or former police officers, and criminals, or former criminals, especially in Baltimore, which is small enough that they know the same people.
EN: Oh yeah. When I got to Atlanta Federal Prison Camp I was locked in a cell for two months, 23 hours a day. The guy I bunked with there was this guy, his nickname was “T”—his name was Tyrone. He was from New Orleans. And we had so many mutual friends because of my connections to New Orleans. That’s part of the indictment, my trips down there. I knew the police chief, I knew a lot of the cops, and he knew a lot of the same people.
He was a very good guy. Just a smart guy who was sucked in by the money . . . to do it all over again, he [said he] would not do it. It wasn’t worth it. He got hit with a 15-year sentence.
CP: And in federal prison that means 15 years.
EN: Yeah. He’ll get a little bit of time off, but not much. And that’s a heavy, heavy sentence for . . . a nonviolent drug offender.
Yeah, but we talked about all this stuff, and we’re laughing about how he had to watch out not only for his rivals in the drug business. He had to watch out for the cops—both the good cops trying to put him in jails and the bad cops trying to rip him off. We had a lot of laughs about all that stuff.
CP: How long were you at Eglin?
EN: I think we got driven out by [Hurricane] Ivan. We left September 13. I was there from July 21, so approximately six weeks.
CP: What happened when they decided they were going to evacuate everybody?
EN: Well, it happened really suddenly, and they seemed to be extremely unprepared. What happened was they summoned us to the visiting room, which is their only big room they can actually gather a group, [and] they tell us. Once they do that, you can’t make a phone call for security reasons, because they don’t want you notifying people you’re going to be moved—so nobody plans a prison break or something. So, they notify us that we’re going to be moved, and I’m sitting there like, “Great.”
First, [they told us] it was Pensacola, which is another nice place. Same kind of deal as Eglin. And then the hurricane was heading right there, so they changed it and said we’re going to Yazoo City, Mississippi. All people talk about are the different places they’ve been. I knew Yazoo was not a good place for a variety of reasons, and that’s where we ended up going.
They tell us, “Oh, you’re only going to be going for a few days, so just take whatever you can carry in your hand.” No clothing. Just the pants you have on. One change of underwear. Your toothbrush. One book. And that’s about it. You weren’t allowed to take your pillow, your blanket or shaving kit, or anything. So they pack us lunches. We get on the prison bus, and we’re locked in for eight or 10 hours by the time we get there.
CP: How overcrowded was Yazoo City?
EN: It was undercrowded. It’s a brand-new facility that wasn’t open yet. It was supposed to be temporary and in a couple of days they’d send us back. So we get off the bus and go into this maximum-security facility, but it wasn’t prepared for inmates yet. There were no beds attached to the walls. There was no bedding, no working laundry service, no working food service yet. It was just a concrete and steel structure. So, we ended up laying on the floor, on the concrete, and then we got mattresses later that night. But I ended up sleeping on a bare mattress for two months on the floor of a prison. Remember, this is a real cell. This is where your toilet is in there, your sink. You know, that is where you live.
CP: At Eglin, you were not in a cell?
EN: No. Open dormitory.
CP: Did you have any privacy in prison?
EN: No. You have no privacy in prison. That’s the most noticeable thing. It wasn’t so bad at Eglin because you had showers with curtains on them and you had toilets with doors and stuff. Atlanta didn’t have that.
You’re just used to it. You don’t have any privacy. So you shut yourself off. The common thing that we all did was to put your headphones on. You buy a Walkman from the commissary. Plug yourself in to some music, put in ear plugs if you want to sleep. I’d pull a ski cap over my eyes to block out the light and just lay in my bunk. Because you were never alone, which could drive you crazy. There was a lot of noise, and you just can’t get away, ’cause there’s nowhere to go.
You could get some degree of privacy at Eglin because it was just so big, you could find a private spot somewhere. But there was very little privacy.
CP: Why didn’t they return you to Eglin after the hurricane had gone through? Had it done a lot of damage?
EN: I still don’t know. They returned 270 inmates to Eglin right away after the first week, so I don’t know how bad the damage was. We were never told.
You never get any information inside. We had almost no contact with the outside world. We had no phone calls for weeks. Had no mail. They kept telling us, “You’re going back, you’re going back.” But we were never going back. They sent the initial 270 back, and then we stayed in this place, living in lockdown, eating boxed lunches three times a day in a cell.
CP: They had no food preparations?
EN: No. I volunteered to work in the food preparations just to get out of the cell. We made sandwiches the first few weeks—that’s all we did. We made 1,400 sandwiches three times a day.
But, then Mississippi was a really miserable existence. I mean, besides the obvious [fact that] you’re in prison. It was one thing in Eglin where—I was in prison and it was terrible thing—but then going to . . .
I remember catching my reflection in the mirror, which was what really snapped me to attention. In Eglin you had mirrors all over, because it was that kind of place, but in maximum [security] there’s no mirrors obviously—no glass. (laughs) As we’re [in Yazoo City] for a day or two, I catch my reflection in a mirror. I say, Oh boy. Thank God. You’re losing a little weight there. And it kinda snapped me to attention, because my reflection is crisscrossed by prison bars. And I was like, “Wow, this is some fall.” (laughs) I remember that vividly. I was walking by, and it was some prison glass, and I turned around and I was so pleased that I lost about 30 pounds at that point, then you see the prison bars and it brought me back to reality. I was like, “Wow.”
CP: When you were in New York, you moved up through the ranks incredibly quickly. You came here just before your 40th birthday.
EN: Right. I was 39 when I was commissioner actually.
CP: What did that feel like when you saw your reflection in the glass with the prison bars? Did it make you reflect on how quickly the other part of your life had moved?
EN: Of course. Yeah, sure. (sighs) It was really hard. I still couldn’t get my mind around the fact of what all had transpired so quickly.
CP: Have you yet?
EN: No. I’ve come to terms with it, obviously, and I’ve accepted it. I think I deal with it pretty well. I still laugh every day and I’m in a pretty good mood.
CP: While you were at Yazoo, did they return your belongings to you?
EN: No. No . . . we had nothing. We had one pair of underwear—they finally gave us another set when we were [at Yazoo City]. You had no writing utensils. You had no stamps. They didn’t let us take our radios, so you couldn’t even listen to music. Maybe about halfway through they brought in a box of books. I just read a lot. When the mail came—we had one mail delivery while I was there—I got about eight books from friends. So I went through all of those and 12 others in the time I was there. I just read a lot and exercised.
CP: What kind of things were you reading?
EN: Everything. I read Tom Wolfe and [Michael] Crichton. All the stuff that’s out. The Lonesome Dove series. I read all that stuff, and then I also read on men’s search for meaning, ya know. Some philosophy books. Then I read a lot of things I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, obscure kind of Russian literature like The Master and Margarita. Ian McEwan. I read just a lot of different stuff that people sent me. Whether I liked them or didn’t like them, I read them all. Dan Brown, the guy who wrote The Da Vinci Code—everything he wrote. There was nothing else to do, so I got a lot of reading done.
CP: You were in different facilities, but what was your general day like?
EN: They were pretty similar in every place. You get up pretty early usually wherever you are. I was up at 5:30 every day. Breakfast is served really early. If you wanna eat, you gotta be there at 6 o’clock. Your last meal of the day is at 2 o’clock.
CP: Why would they do it that way?
EN: I have no idea. I guess it’s just the schedule. They send like 500 guys everyday to do landscaping on the base, so they’d get you out early. They get you to work early to be back by midafternoon.
The weirdest part was being counted all the time. That was a little demeaning and strange. You’d have to stand by your bunk and be counted. At approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon every prisoner in America is counted.
EN: Uh-huh, and they have scheduled times, like 4 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock. All day, all night long they come in and count to make sure people haven’t escaped.
CP: When you were being counted, what did that feel like?
EN: It was demeaning. It was horrible, ya know. I kept thinking to myself: “Could this really be happening?”
(switching thoughts) Let’s go to Atlanta. I’ll tell you exactly what I thought to myself. This is when I hit rock bottom. When I got shipped to Atlanta, it was surreal. I knew Atlanta was not a good place by reputation, and on the bus I was really fearful that my profession would cause me trouble there.
So, I’d made friends at this point, because I spent like three and half, four months with these guys, because we’re all coming from Eglin. So, there 20 or 22 of us who came from Eglin who went to Mississippi and were designated for Atlanta out of the 800. So, on the bus, I was talking to my buddy. I said, ya know—“This is not going to be good for me.” (laughs) I heard about this place and this is going to be a problem. And so he got up and said to all the prisoners, “Look, nobody gives up Eddie’s profession when we get there.” And for the entire stay nobody did. Nobody said a word that I was a cop. That really stunned me. We joked about it in private, but nobody said a word. I couldn’t imagine 22 anybodies staying quiet, and these guys really did.
CP: It sounds like because of your experiences being moved around that there was a lot of loyalty there.
EN: There was. I had some really good friends there. You know, not everybody is a miserable hardened criminal in there. There’s a lot of good people who either make mistakes or [were convicted by] questionable prosecutions. There are a lot of political folks in there. I met the treasurer of Connecticut, the CEO of Rite Aid, a judge, 63 lawyers in Eglin. Some people did bad things who got caught, and some people were kinda in that gray area—did they even commit a crime.
CP: It sounds like your job prospects are looking up. You met all these people down there.
EN: You never know. But no, it was some funny experiences with these guys. You’re all are going through a very bad time in your life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a millionaire or you were a petty drug dealer, you still lost whatever you had. You lost all your money, you lost your freedom, your civil rights. You’re in prison, and your future is pretty bleak. So I think you all kind of bond no matter where you came from.
CP: How did the guards treat you?
EN: It varied, ya know. Like police. So it was just like anywhere else. There were some good ones, who were decent guys just doing their job, and some knuckleheads that were petty and, ya know, and kind of mean.
CP: How many times did you get to see your wife?
EN: (sighs) I would say four . . . four or five. Because I couldn’t see her for the two months in the mill. I saw her once in Eglin, two-month gap, and I think she came every month in Atlanta.
CP: Was there anybody else who came to see you besides her?
EN: Oh, my father came a lot. My friends came. I don’t want to give names because some are active-duty police.
CP: In Atlanta, I know there’s a federal penitentiary . . .
EN: That’s where I was the first night. This is a “goth” story . . . We pull into Atlanta. It was dark. The camp was not accepting any prisoners because it’s nighttime. And Atlanta is legendary. Al Capone spent time there, ya know. They had the riot there in the ’80s when they burned the place. A lot of violence. It’s a really imposing place. Gothic-looking front. Spooky at night. Gun towers. The whole bit.
They drive us down this concrete ramp. Very steep ramp. It’s only a couple of inches on each side for the bus, and of course the gate locks behind you and opens at the bottom. You get strip-searched . . . we got a body-cavity search. You get, like, a pair of orange pants that are four sizes too small and a T-shirt that was about seven sizes too big. Mismatch shoes of two different colors. You really feel like you hit bottom.
We haven’t eaten, so they gave us Lunchables. Which really broke my heart because that’s what I always gave my son when I made him lunch every day. And his treat was to give him a Lunchable. A little Spider-Man Lunchable. That really choked me up and I started to cry.
They couldn’t put us in the camp that night they put us in the Disciplinary Segregation Unit—for people who are being disciplined. They line us up in our ridiculous clothing with our Lunchables, and we had to carry these mattresses, canvas bags full of rags and stuff that weighed, I don’t know, 50, 75 pounds each. And you had to drag them up these stairs to the tier, and all these guys are banging and yelling through the little food ports, “Don’t let ‘em in!” because they were crowded. So you gotta realize what that feels like that these guys are banging and kicking on the cell doors not to let us in and screaming and looking through the ports.
So we’re all lined up. They open the cells. They assign us different places. I don’t think any of us [from Eglin] went together. I lucked out because I ended up with two other guys. But some had like six in their cell. They’re tiny little cells. It’s small for one person. It’s very close for two. And for three . . . I just rolled up this mattress and put it against the locked . . . and just sat on the floor. I had a rolled-up newspaper. My job was to keep my feet against it at the end of the door to keep the rats out that way. That’s how I spent the night.
I remember saying to myself . . . I just started to laugh. My life had become so absurd. Whatever people think of me, I just felt like this was a bit much. I spent my entire life helping people. I forsake other careers where I could’ve made more money because I really thought I was doing the right thing, and (laughs) I was now in [the hole] in Atlanta, and I’m staring at my mismatched shoes propped up against the door, shaking my head and laughing.
You know, these two guys don’t know me, they’re not friends of mine, so they’re off in their own [world], listening to music and just talking, and I start saying, “Is this really happening? Now I am in the penitentiary for misusing a fund that has been existence for 75 years. I spent half as much money as [former Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier] in the same way. I paid it all back before I left, and I’m serving prison time in the hole in Atlanta.” And I start to laugh. (laughs) “I can’t believe this. I lied on my mortgage application and I’m in federal prison.” I was either going to laugh or cry. So I started laughing in the cell like this is just so ridiculous.
The next day they came and let us out and took us down to the camp. But that night was (laughs) really like a seminal moment for me.
CP: Did you have a job in Atlanta?
EN: I worked in the kitchen. I was a cook.
CP: And how many of the other inmates did you poison?
EN: (laughs) None. We made good food. One reason I became a cook is a guy I befriended in Eglin. He was from Maryland through Pensacola. He came up to me in Eglin and said to me, “My relatives in Maryland, they said you were a great guy and you got screwed.” He gave me a handful of cigars, which I sold in Eglin, and we became very good friends.
He was an investment banker by trade, but he was a chef by hobby and it was his passion. So he wanted to cook in the kitchen, and he asked me to come with him for safety reasons. You don’t want go anywhere by yourself there. So, I went with him, and he taught me how to cook a little bit.
CP: You mentioned that you didn’t want to go anywhere by yourself. Was it just in Atlanta or in all the facilities you were in?
EN: Mostly just Atlanta. At Eglin there was no violence. There was a fistfight occasionally. It was probably no more violence than in high school. Atlanta, you would have slashings there. We were conscious of it because the kitchen had a lot of issues with new people coming in. Inmates had their own little racket going. They were selling food on the side and things like that. So they assumed we were coming in to disrupt their business. We just wanted to cook. (laughs) We had no interest in doing any of that stuff.
CP: And you also made yourself look like a biker “meth lab” guy.
EN: Yeah. We went to report for work one day, and [this guard] came up to me, about a quarter-inch from my nose, and started reading me the riot act about how it was going to be here. I was like, “What was that all about?” And another kid from New Orleans, Shorty, grabs me and says, “Because you got that Murder One haircut.” They call it the Murder One when you shave your head bare. He assumed [I’d] come from a higher [security] facility and wanted to let me know how it is.
CP: Aside from the culture shock of being in jail, was there a culture shock of being with people who came from such a different culture than yourself?
EN: No, not really. The one thing I think saved me was that I didn’t come from a different background, I just took a different path. I probably came from a more humble background than many of the inmates in Eglin. Because a lot of these folks were pretty wealthy and were pretty privileged. My father was a butcher until I was 10 or 11, [before becoming] a cop. I came from a very blue-collar background, which was where a lot these kids came from. So I had a lot in common with a lot of these guys, where they were just, ya know, knock-around guys. That saves me a lot.
And then being a cop, you deal with people every day from the other side of the tracks. You’re not immediately afraid. Police are the only people who look the bad guy in the eyes. The average Joe going to work tries to avoid them. So you know a little bit how to deal with folks.
It’s certainly not a place you want to be as a cop. And certainly not [in any] place with violent inmates. I wouldn’t want to be in a medium- or maximum-security prison with that kind of background. With people with nothing to lose, it’s a different story. These guys, they’re going to get out soon. If you’re in a place with people serving life . . .
CP: What was the toughest part of this for you?
EN: Oh, far and away being away from my family. The hardest part was being separated from my wife and son. I love my career and all, but I’ll get a new career doing something else obviously. The hardest part—my boy is 5 years old. That was really the most painful part of this.
CP: You did not tell your son where you were because of his age?
EN: That’s right, I didn’t. I wanted to make it so I didn’t lie to him, but he can’t possibly understand this right now. So what I told him was—we both like superheroes. We both like comic books—Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America. So before I left, we were watching Spider-Man, and Peter Parker was in jail, and we were kind of talking, and he’s like, “Well, Daddy, why is Spider-Man in jail?” [I said], “Jack, even good people have to go to jail when mistakes happen, you know. Sometimes good guys go there. It’s not just bad people.” “Really?” “Yeah.”
It was hard, obviously. It was very hard for me to talk to him on the phone. I would start crying frequently. It was tough to hear his voice.
And, of course, that was a huge part of my decision-making to take a plea. There’s a tremendous risk going to trial against the federal government. If you lose . . .
CP: Well you had the one count that was dropped. The one mortgage count had a sentence of 30 years.
EN: The mortgage count had a very heavy penalty, just so people know. I don’t think they really know what happened.
My father gave me $9,000 to buy my home and he said it was a gift in the letter. Subsequently, I paid him back. So then it was no longer a gift. It was a loan. And that is a federal crime. It’s lying to an institution insured by the federal government. So I was indicted for that.
I was contemplating fighting the [other] part because [spending from] this account there was discretion involved. There’s no rules.
I met with some experts in Washington who were former U.S. attorneys, and I told them the entirety of what I was facing. When I talked about the mortgage, the female [attorney] said, “Oh, that’s the head shot.” “What?” “That’s the one they got you good on. I’ll tell you what they’re going to do. They’re going to indict you for that, because they got it solid on that. They’re going to pepper the indictment with a whole bunch of things they maybe could or could not prove. But they have you solid on that.”
So I told that to my wife. I said this is what these people advised me is going to happen. Then I wiped out my life savings taking a plea, because it just costs so much money to defend yourself. You’re fighting the United States. It buckles your knees when you see in the paper (laughs) the United States of America versus you. It’s really sobering.
They estimated that it would cost $500,000 to defend me properly. Because we want to hire private investigators and experts, and all the things that go into the other side. You have investigators and five people working on me for a year to be prepared on my side. So you get all of this, a half-million dollars in expenditure, more torment for my family and the people in the city, bad publicity, and just agony for people that love me.
CP: How much did it cost you to plead guilty?
EN: Well, if you just think of the hard cold-cash expenditures, I had to sell my home, I had to cash in my 401(k). I paid restitution when I left the city—it was like restitution three times in this case. And between that and my legal cost, it cost me 60 . . . 70 grand, I guess. That was just in cash. And then you think about I lost my income for two years already, my future income. Who knows how many millions of dollars won’t be made now? I was making about 200 grand a year [including his pension from the NYPD]. And then the pension I never got from the city. People think I got it, I didn’t. I got a year’s severance when I left [like other former commissioners]. But I never got the thing that people read about, the negotiated pension that was withheld. Then when this happened, the city did not pay anyway. The loss of everything has just been staggering. I’ve been unemployed since December 2003. So it’s been a devastating financial hit.
CP: The parts of the indictment that many people up here remember most are the ones about you and other women. Your wife has been extraordinary in standing by you. How does that make you feel?
EN: Well, actually it makes me feel great. I have an extraordinary wife, and I pleaded guilty to all the charges, so I have to live with this and say this is what I did.
I did everything. I am not denying, under oath, that I said I did these things. But let people really sit down and read the indictment and see what I pled guilty to.
What they don’t realize is that I was indicted and sent to prison for taking my staff to Oriole games to the tune of $1,000 per game. Keep in mind I’m the CEO of a large company. I have 4,000 employees. I don’t look at the receipts for anything. So when I took staff members to ball games, it would be like, “All right, Commissioner, you’re showing up tonight. We’re taking the Warrant Unit, command staff.” And we would go to the ball game, and I would talk to the people who worked for me, and we’d have a great night. And we’d buy beer and crab cakes, hot dogs, whatever was purchased. But I certainly didn’t buy them, and the receipts were submitted.
I still don’t understand how if 25 people attend a ball game and 20 of them are city employees who work for the police department . . . first of all, I don’t know if you have to be, because the mayor and governor, they take people to ball games all the time [who] don’t work for the city. Their friends, people we do business with, the people who are [a part of] charities. So I had some extra tickets. Yes, I took friends to the game who were down here on business helping us out from the NYPD. One night, I took a couple of women who were friends of ours from a restaurant across the street from headquarters.
CP: They were originally in the indictment, but they dropped out. They were originally women 7 and 8, I believe.
EN: Yeah, I think you’re right. To be honest, I don’t even remember at this point.
Again, in my decision-making, say I went to trial and by some miracle I won. I overcome the mortgage, I overcome the women, I overcome all this stuff, and the headline in The Sun the next day wouldn’t be “Norris Innocent After Trial.” It would’ve been something like “Fast Eddie Beats the Rap.” So I was still destroyed. For me, someone in my position, the bad press, the bad Google hit, it’s the indictment that destroys your career. The rest of it just becomes a moot point. Now, it’s just what’s the best deal you can make for your family.
CP: I notice when I went through all the records on the expenditures on that account that there were two separate notations for dinner with the mayor. I’ve been told by members of the command staff, despite how it was presented publicly, that this account was never a secret within the upper ranks of the police department.
EN: Of course they [knew]. Whenever I took the mayor, or other people, I was always asked, do I have an account for this. I’d say, “Of course, everyone has an account for this.” I mean, I couldn’t afford to take eight people, like visiting police chiefs, the mayor, and others—you couldn’t be expected to take people out to Fleming’s, any nice restaurant in town out of your own pocket and spend $800 for dinner. Businesses don’t run that way.
CP: So when you took the mayor out to dinner those two times, he knew that he wasn’t paying for it and you personally were not paying for it?
EN: Of course.
(Through a spokesman, Mayor O’Malley declined an interview with City Paper for this story.)
CP: Did he know about this account?
EN: I don’t know. I always assumed everybody knew about the account. I never denied it. When I was asked, do I have a fund for this, I said, “Of course I have a fund for this.” Because we would take turns buying dinner. He and I. He had an account. I had an account. We went out a lot. We were always seen out at dinner, different restaurants. We worked hard and we used to do business together at dinner, and yeah, we would usually take turns paying.
CP: I also noticed some expenditures from the account that normally would have been paid for by the city through the Board of Estimates—specifically payments for both you and various members of the command staff to go to conferences. Is there any particular reason you paid for it from the account?
EN: Yeah, first of all, I was just following precedent. [Former Commissioner Frazier] got turned down [by the Board of Estimates] to take his driver to a police conference in Hawaii, and he took the money out of the [supplemental] fund. So I thought it was perfectly OK to send people to conferences out of the fund, and a lot of it [was] because I wanted to send people for a lot of training.
The city was not in good financial shape. I was not going to keep hitting them up, because I knew they would only send a few people. So, you see, it was a trip to San Diego. I sent a lot of people to a training conference. The city approved a couple, and I paid for the remainder out of this fund, and I continued to do that. It’s not like there was a secret. Everybody knew we were doing this.
CP: It seems what people really concentrated on wasn’t the money, but the other women.
EN: And that is extremely unfortunate, and, of course, I think that was by design. The way to really give this case legs was to bring sex and women and all that stuff to sex up the case. If people would sit down and look at the facts, which I wish they would . . . it’s too late now obviously, but there were things. When I tell people I was indicted for paying my father back on a mortgage, their jaws fall down. Nobody remembers that. All they know is gifts for girls all over the United States.
CP: When your wife got up to speak at your sentencing, the judge stopped and looked at you and said something to the effect of, “I hope you realize what type of wife you have,” and you looked like you were in a lot of pain when he did that.
EN: I was. I love my wife. I think the stuff about the women was intentional. It seems like, in addition to taking away my career and my liberty and all my money, there was a serious intent to take away my family. And I don’t think that is the role of the government. You look at the Whitewater investigation. It starts off as some kind of big fraud of a land deal and it ends up oral sex in the White House. This is what sells. This is what we’ve become.
I was assured when this started that any allegations about sex and women would be kept to the side, and the quote was “no gray area” at all. So all the sexual innuendo would be put to one side, and the only thing we’ll speak about is theft.
CP: Are you required to have a job while you’re on home monitoring?
EN: Yes. You have to look for work or go to work. You just can’t sit home.
(At the time of this interview, Norris was employed at a store in a mall in Tampa. After the interview, he was fired when an anonymous person complained to the company’s home office in New Jersey about his employment. Currently he is looking for another job. He also appears on a radio show on Baltimore’s Live 105.7 every weekday 1 -2 p.m.)
CP: So you’ve fulfilled everything you’re required to do for the home-detention portion?
EN: Well, I’m fulfilling it. I still have four months left. I’ve done the things that are initially required right away. I got a job quickly. I’m going to take out a loan and pay off the government, so my fine will be paid off. Home detention will hopefully be done without incident, and then I have to fulfill the 500 hours of community service.
CP: The judge denied your request to do your community service in Tampa. Why did you want to do it in Tampa, instead of Baltimore?
EN: Well, mostly because of the expenses. It’s a real struggle to feed a family with no job when you’re on a pension. Now I’m required to come to Baltimore at my own expense, which means I have to support my family, support myself, find a place to live, find some kind of vehicle to get me around to work and home and community service. So it’s just a tremendous expenditure on both ends, and it prevents me from getting any kind of meaningful work down here, because I can’t go to an employer with a conscience and say, “I’d like to start a new career with your company. I want to work with you for 20 years, but after four months I have to leave for six months.” So I can’t really find any meaningful employment down here.
CP: Did you have to fill out employment applications?
EN: Yeah, sure.
CP: When they see that you were the former police commissioner of Baltimore, do they ask you about that?
EN: Yeah. Well, I didn’t actually. I learned after filling out a bunch of them that when I put that down that I was the superintendent of state police and police commissioner of Baltimore, it was like people looking at you [going] “Why would you want to work here?” Even with the conviction, they know you’re not going to stay, so they assume you won’t. So I stopped doing that. I just put down that I’m an actor on HBO and that I’m a retired police officer. I don’t put what rank I was. And then it becomes more understandable.
CP: And the “actor on HBO” is from your appearances on The Wire?
EN: In its first three seasons. I’ll hopefully be in the fourth. So I feel like, I put down the show as my reference, and then the police department is my past career.
CP: Do you have any idea of what you want to do now?
EN: Not only am I prevented from being a police officer, but I’m pretty much shut out of the business completely. I would like to use my skills. I feel like I was pretty good at this. I’ve learned a lot about running major organizations, and I can certainly help out with not only the crime-fighting aspects of it, but the other pitfalls. Clearly, I know how you can get into trouble. (laughs) I could really help people. I can teach them all the good things I do know about how to run a police department, and also teach them on how you can make yourself vulnerable to something like this that can destroy your life.
I have a lot to offer. But I can’t do it for any government because I’m a convicted felon. It would be unlikely that people hire me anyway because of all the baggage and the press that would be attendant. I’m really looking into other things, like the entertainment field. I have friends who write for different TV shows. I could consult on police dramas and things like that. Movies, things like that. Who knows?
But I’m pretty happy doing anything. I don’t care. For the next 20 years I’ll do something completely different. Maybe I’ll sell motorcycles.
CP: Have to grow that beard back.
EN: Well, I still have the shaved head.
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