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 is innocent of federal charges that he used improper loans to pay 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 Wednesday, news outlets 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, a federal indictment said. He was accused of seeking a nearly $70,000 loan for a piece of machinery in 2020 when the money actually went to personal expenses, it said.

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

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

Norris resigned as sheriff a year ago before he was scheduled to appear in a hearing at the Alabama Supreme Court to respond to an impeachment complaint filed by the state attorney general's office. Norris was accused of multiple acts of malfeasance, including filing false financial disclosure forms and taking thousands of dollars from a company whose owner got payments from the sheriff’s office.