Former Alabama sheriff pleads not guilty to federal charges

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – A former Alabama sheriff who resigned last year rather than face an impeachment inquiry said he was innocent of federal charges of using improper loans to pay debts. personal expenses, including gambling debts.

Former Clarke County Sheriff William Ray Norris pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to federally insured banks during a hearing on Wednesday, media reported.

Norris was accused of taking out nearly $50,000 in bank loans in 2017 and 2018 to pay personal debts while claiming the money was for expenses at the sheriff’s office, according to a federal indictment. He was accused of applying for a loan of nearly $70,000 for a machine in 2020 when the money actually went to personal expenses, he said.

Norris and a friend, Danny Lee Beard Jr., were also charged with applying for additional loans worth tens of thousands of dollars, and Beard was separately charged with making false statements to obtain a loan pandemic relief over $74,000.

Beard previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and a judge has scheduled a trial for the two in July, records show.

Norris resigned as sheriff a year ago before appearing in the Alabama Supreme Court to address an impeachment complaint filed by the state attorney general’s office. Norris has been accused of multiple acts of wrongdoing, including filling out false financial disclosure forms and taking thousands of dollars from a business whose owner received payments from the sheriff’s office.

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