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Eddie Vetters

Posted 6/15/2005

As the assistant U.S. attorneys who prosecuted former Baltimore police commissioner Edward Norris for his misuse of federal funds, we wish to correct several inaccurate statements made by Mr. Norris in your two-part storyEddie” (June 1, June 8).

Mr. Norris stated that he “got indicted for going to three Orioles games, I believe—two or three were in the indictment. . . . The mayor and his staff attended the same games . . . with my command staff that I went to prison for. And to this day I don’t understand it.”

On the day of his guilt plea, Mr. Norris understood it. The Statement of Facts, a 14-page document which consisted of facts that we believe the United States would have proved beyond a reasonable doubt and was agreed to by Mr. Norris under oath at the time of his guilty plea, described the game that Mr. Norris and John Stendrini, his chief of staff, attended. Mr. Norris did not get indicted for taking “staff members to ball games,” as he suggested. Mr. Norris was indicted for taking a restaurant manager, two females, and two friends from New York to a game and paying for their food, drinks, and baseball merchandise with money intended for the benefit of the Baltimore Police Department. The relevant portion of the Statement of Facts reads as follows:

 

A Smith & Wollensky manager, two females, two friends and former NYPD colleagues, and Executive Protection Unit (EPU) Member #1 would have testified that on April 3, 2002, Mr. Stendrini purchased food, alcohol, and merchandise at an Orioles-Yankees baseball game for a large crowd, many of whom were personal friends of Mr. Norris’s. Mr. Stendrini submitted the receipts (totalling $986.00) to the Supplemental Account for reimbursement.

 

In the interview, Mr. Norris claimed that he “took friends to the game who were down here on business helping us out from the NYPD.” In court, however, Mr. Norris admitted under oath he had “falsely claimed [to the city’s finance director] that the two former NYPD colleagues were in Baltimore for ‘training purposes.’” (Emphasis added.) Mr. Norris apparently repeated that false claim to your reporter.

In his comments, Mr. Norris suggested that his clothing purchases “were all legitimate” and stated that he needed the clothes as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Norris was not indicted for making legitimate purchases of uniforms with money from the Supplemental Account. Mr. Norris was indicted for buying clothes for his own personal use with money from the fund that he knew had to be used for the benefit of the BPD. From the Statement of Fact:

 

[On] February 13, 2001, Mr. Norris purchased Valentine’s Day gifts for Female #2 and Female #1 with money from the Supplemental Account. Female #1, Female #2, and Female #3 would have testified that they received gifts from Victoria’s Secret from Mr. Norris for Valentine’s Day. The United States would have introduced Female #1’s gift, a black robe, into evidence.

 

Other purchases included shoes from Dan Bros. Discount Shoes on Nov. 28, 2001, for $169, and that of a Façonnable shirt from Nordstrom on June 19, 2000.

In the interview, Mr. Norris claimed that he “sent a lot of people to a training conference.” Mr. Norris was not indicted for sending people to a training conference. On the contrary, Mr. Norris was indicted for not going to a training conference, among numerous other travel abuses. Again, the Statement of Fact agreed to by Mr. Norris under oath at the time of his guilty plea reflected that:

 

Mr. Norris traveled on or about May 28, 2002, for the purported reason that he was to attend a terrorism meeting in New York City. Employees of the BPD would have testified that Mr. Norris knew that the meeting had been postponed. EPU Member #1 would have testified that Mr. Norris traveled to New York City for shopping and other personal reasons and that he paid for lodging expenses and the W Hotel in the amount of $495.12 and dining expenses at Smith & Wollensky in the amount of approximately $284.20 with money from the Supplemental Account.

 

Mr. Norris now claims that he could have “bought $10,000 worth of bubble gum” with money from the Supplemental Account, since it was “a discretionary fund.” That assertion is at odds with his admission under oath at his plea that he understood shortly after learning of the existence of the fund that “the money in the Supplemental Account could be used at Mr. Norris’s discretion but that it had to be used for the benefit of the Police Department and could not be used for personal purposes.”

Finally, any assertion that the prosecution was politically motivated is as baseless as the other assertions he made in the interview. There should be no doubt that Mr. Norris misused funds that he knew were meant for the benefit of the BPD, and that—and that alone—is the reason he was indicted and, ultimately, convicted.

Allen F. Loucks
Steven H. Levin
Jason M. Weinstein
Assistant U.S. Attorneys
Baltimore

 

The Man Gets Screwed by the Man, Man

I sympathize with the frustration of police commissioner-turned-prisoner Edward Norris over his inability to find a job now that he’s been released, and even more so with his resentment about his dealings with Baltimore’s bureaucracy. “The pension I never got from the city . . . the city did not pay”—as a Baltimore City employee, I could have told him they never pay you what they say they will.

Pensions for disgraced former officials? Clean, affordable housing for all city residents? Longer library hours and a living wage for those who work there? Reversing the Maryland Transit Administration’s recently announced cuts in bus service? Get with the program, Eddie—we’ve got a drug war to fight (but never win) and jail cells to fill. And while Norris’ recent experiences may have given him a more nuanced perspective on America’s obsession with incarceration, that doesn’t mean this racket’s ending anytime soon.

Jon Swift
Baltimore

 

Pet Smart

As stated in your article “Ms. Fix-It,” (Quick and Dirty, June 8), the Maryland SPCA is indeed working with a host of active animal-welfare groups in an effort to provide cost-effective community spay/neuter services. In fact, the coalition spearheaded by the SPCA is comprised of several area groups including organizations from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and more. Over the last several weeks, the coalition has successfully staged several spay/neuter events.

Most recently, this collaborative effort has yielded a pilot program called “Pilot Fix-em.” Utilizing the SPCA shelter facility, we reach out to area animal shelters and rescue groups to facilitate spay/neuter services. The coalition has seen positive results from working cooperatively for the benefit of animals. In the long term, working together and pooling our efforts will ultimately benefit more animals in our community. The SPCA remains committed to the spay/neuter cause and collaborative work to promote the humane treatment of Baltimore’s animal population.

Aileen Gabbey
Executive Director, Maryland SPCA
Baltimore

 

Hotel Reservations

The Baltimore City Council’s $305 million plan to put up a hotel near its convention center is bad economics and even worse democracy (“Strange Bedfellows,” Mobtown Beat, June 1). Divided among the 600,000 or so residents of Baltimore, $305 million comes out to more than $500 per person. A family of four would be chipping in over $2,000. And this in the convention industry, which is saturated with new hotels, despite declining visitor stays year after year. If you were a bank loan officer, would you see much promise in such a proposal?

All one has to do to find better uses for this third of $1 billion would be to visit the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s small-business development seminars. There you would find Baltimore residents taking time to investigate their ideas for starting businesses all over Baltimore, in places besides the Inner Harbor, places where solid local businesses could make huge differences for otherwise neglected neighborhoods. Just part of $305 million could make a lot of such loans. This way, the people of Baltimore could build their own futures and work for themselves, instead of putting mints on pillows and opening doors for out-of-town visitors in a place they don’t own.

Call or e-mail your City Council member while there’s still time: The choice is between using $305 million to empower the people of Baltimore to better their own destinies and neighborhoods, and offering them a few more low-paying jobs in a hotel that resembles one built on the beaches of a banana republic.

Erik Kestler
Baltimore

 

Stolen Summer

Kudos to Laurence Bass for his poignant piece on growing up in Edmondson Village (“Summer in the City,” Sizzlin’ Summer, May 25) As a Baltimore police officer, I patrolled the Village in the later half of the ’70s. Then, in more innocent times, it was known for its prolific class of juvenile car thieves, who mastered the art of stealing cars before they learned how to navigate one through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, leading to a lot of damaged parked vehicles. The Village was so well known as a hotbed of joyriding car thieves that victims from other parts of town would go there and cruise the streets looking for their missing Fords, which at the time had the easiest ignition switches to pop. Once, a citizen flagged me down to report that he had recovered his car on his own after reporting it stolen. I asked him how he knew where to look. His response: “Everybody knows if your car is stolen, you go look for it in Edmondson Village.”

Stephen Pohl
Woodlawn

 

Geek Love Spurned

I read Summer Patton’s article in City Paper a few weeks back with piqued interest and great hope that geeks everywhere might have at last found a place where they too are welcome in the harsh reality of voyeurism (“The Naked Truth,” May 4). I was, however, soon to learn that her vision of a rosier, more “kinder and genteel” side of exotic dancing (read stripping) is no more than my own illusory hope for “a better place to be,” to quote an old Harry Chapin song.

I went to Summer’s venue, a small, homey, and unpretentious bar in North Highlandtown, close to a more infamous strip club on Route 40, and found there a true cross sampling of every type of person—male, that is—you would possibly want to meet. The illustrations of Alex Fine in Patton’s article not only did justice to her appearance but also to the wide variety of onlookers in the “peanut gallery.” Upon first glance it was refreshing to see such a cross section of the population represented in such a seedy environment, where, if a dancer hugs you, it is usually one of those hugs where the pelvis is extended as far away from the lower body of the other as possible, the most disingenuous kind of hug.

All in all, that is what I found there, but I could not condemn the industry, nor do I condemn it flat-out, without first experiencing it for myself, and in my three short visits to Haven Place I feel as though I have come away knowing that it is no more different, and its dancers are no more different, than most of the others who ply similar trades throughout the area, no matter how noble Ms. Patton makes their plight out to be.

As a self-proclaimed geek, no matter where I go, I always manage to find myself sitting alone and confused, but always with a content smile on my face and a reasonably good attitude despite all else. And like Napoleon Dynamite, whom CP regards as one of its anti-heroes, I too believe that I should “follow my heart.” And I thought that was what I was doing in accepting Summer Patton’s article on its own merit. Sadly, what I had to have done to me, and most unpleasantly, is to have myself awoken from the delusory expectation that Summer’s article placed in my all too impressionable mind, and accept the fact that most, if not all the women plying their trade in this arena of exhibitionism are in fact empowered with a genuine, but illusory authority over the men in their midst with only that which nature has given them. The men, on the other hand, have the dollar bills, and many of them, with which they enable these women, reinforce their and society’s distorted image of beauty, and perpetuate the sexist idea that a little skin, flesh, tits and ass will get you whatever you want, as well as never hurting anyone.

Sadly, the few slimeballs I did see in Haven Place, and the dancers’ overall penchant to speak and hang out with them, convinced me that such places are no places for the likes of me, a geek.

Rommel John Miller
Baltimore

Correction: In the second part of our interview with Edward Norris (June 8), John Pignatero’s name was misspelled. City Paper regrets the error.

Also, in our review of High Tension (Film, June 8), Lion’s Gate was mistakenly given credit for distributing Japanese icktacular Audition in the United States, when, in fact, American Cinematheque did the honors. In our defense, Lion’s Gate is distributing an “uncut” version of the film later this summer. Yikes.

Editor’s note: With this issue, we bid a sad but sincere farewell to arts editor Blake de Pastino, who’s leaving City Paper to take a job with National Geographic News in Washington, D.C. While we’ll miss his gimlet editor’s eye, preternatural writing skills, and easygoing calm, we’re sure he’ll look dashing in safari wear and wish him the best of luck. Music editor Bret McCabe is stepping up to take over Blake’s former post, and, of course, we wish him the best of luck as well.

In addition, this issue marks the return of Media Circus, our biweekly media column, in the capable hands of staff writer Gadi Dechter. Click here for the first installment.

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