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Former sheriff enters guilty plea

A former Clarke County sheriff pleaded guilty to using false information to secure a loan to pay for gambling debts.

Ray Norris at a re-election party.

A former Alabama sheriff pleaded guilty on Monday to a single federal charge for using false information to secure a loan to cover a gambling debt. 

Ray Norris, who resigned as Clarke County sheriff last year after the Alabama Attorney General’s Office brought impeachment proceedings against him, was originally indicted on four counts. He faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines. 

Norris’ case was an odd one. 

The AG’s office originally charged him with four felony counts for misusing his office. It was alleged by the AG’s office that Norris secured four loans totalling at least $48,000 to pay for operating expenses, including jail food, for the sheriff’s office. 

In reality, however, Norris has now admitted that the loans were used to pay off gambling debts he had incurred. 

Norris resigned in 2021, and as part of an agreement, the AG’s office moved to drop the charges against him. 

Then, in December 2021, the AG’s office refiled the charges. That move resulted in a hearing last March, which saw Norris’ attorney, Montgomery’s Joe Espy, and assistant chief deputy AG Clark Morris take the stand to testify about a plea agreement between the state and Norris.

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According to a story in the Clarke County Democrat, Morris didn’t deny that an agreement had been reached with Norris, but said the deal wasn’t in writing and that she only made it because she believed federal authorities would be filing charges against Norris very soon. When that didn’t happen, she refiled the charges and allegedly told Espy that she would “make it to (him).” 

The judge tossed the new charges, ruling that Norris had relied on a valid agreement. 

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Norris on four counts in May.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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