Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton - August 2004 CSC assault and charges
In July 1994, a woman made allegations that St. Joseph Sheriff Deputy Kenneth Norton had sexually assaulted her. Criminal charges were not filed against Deputy Norton...
Former police chief given probation
Saturday, October 8, 2005
CENTREVILLE -- Former Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton will escape a jail sentence but must serve three years' probation for fondling a woman while he was on duty.
A Calhoun County special prosecutor credited the willingness of "several other women" to testify about their own alleged, past sexual abuse by Norton at his sentencing Friday on the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge.
Norton, who pleaded guilty to fondling a 33-year-old Colon woman in her residence while he was in uniform and on duty in August 2004, was sentenced to three years' probation, avoiding serving 90 days in jail as long as he complies with the terms of his probation.
The sentence means Norton, who resigned as Colon police chief Aug. 13 following the charges, will lose his law enforcement certification and must register his whereabouts on the Michigan State Police Sexual Offender Registry. He also was ordered to pay fines and costs totaling $2,217.
Calhoun County Assistant Prosecutor Deirdre A. Ford, acting as special prosecutor, confirmed Friday that several other women contacted investigators about Norton after the Colon woman's case became public. She declined to give an exact number but said other alleged victims claimed to have had "similar experiences."
In an interview with the Kalamazoo Gazette, the victim said Ford told her that the case against Norton became stronger when additional women agreed to testify if the matter went to trial.
Shortly after the additional women came forward, Ford added two other, more serious charges to the woman's complaint that were later dropped in exchange for Norton's guilty plea.
Ford said she agreed to drop second-degree criminal-sexual conduct and felony firearms charges in exchange for Norton's plea to fourth-degree criminal-sexual conduct to save the victim from having to testify at trial.
It is the Kalamazoo Gazette's policy not to reveal the names of sexual-assault victims unless they agree to be identified. The woman declined, saying she has not disclosed what happened even to some family members.
"I'm satisfied with the sentence for this particular offense," Ford said after the proceeding. "But it's not a sentence for prior incidents."
Defense attorney J. Richard Colbeck, of Coldwater said the former police chief had begun counseling and was "well on the way to recovery."
But Ford cautioned that Norton should be under close scrutiny during his probation.
"This individual needs very, very close monitoring during the course of his probation so as not to have a repeat of this again," Ford told St. Joseph County Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman.
The Colon woman who filed the charges and another woman who made similar allegations against Norton in 1994 were both in the courtroom Friday for the sentencing.
Norton declined an opportunity to speak prior to sentencing. He responded quietly to several questions directed to him during the proceeding and left the courtroom immediately afterward without comment. Colbeck also declined comment.
Friday's sentencing means Norton must forfeit his permit to carry a concealed weapon and relinquish any firearms, including hunting rifles that Colbeck had sought unsuccessfully to allow Norton to retain. Ford said other offenders generally get no exception that allows them to hunt and argued that Norton should be treated no differently.
Norton resigned from his $60,000-a-year police chief's post Aug. 13 after the charges were filed. Prior to his 10 years as Colon's chief he was a St. Joseph County Sheriff's Department deputy for 18 years.
County records show he was suspended in July 1994, and then dismissed from the sheriff's department in August 1994, following a sexual-misconduct allegation. But a Kalamazoo County special prosecutor reviewed that case and did not issue criminal charges.
In November 1995, St. Joseph County paid Norton $5,000 to settle the grievance he had filed to get his job back and allowed him to resign.
Norton was hired as Colon's chief April 15, 1995.
In defense comments before sentencing Friday, Colbeck said publicity surrounding Norton's charges had become "a media event and beyond" and suggested that he could easily have presented "well over 100 witnesses to talk about the good (Norton) has done."
Colbeck called the incident "unfortunate, illegal and improper" and said Norton has voluntarily begun counseling and "deeply regrets" the offense.
"My client is well on the way to recovery and he offers his apologies to the victim," Colbeck said.
Ford called Norton's admission that he moved the woman's shirt to expose part of her breast and then reached inside her shirt to fondle her "particularly egregious," because he was on duty as a police officer and Colon's police chief at the time of the incident.