Friday, October 7, 2005

Chief Kenneth Norton - Sentenced - Colon PD

Also See:

Deputy Kenneth Norton dismissed from St. County Sheriff Department for CSC allegations [1994]

Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton - August 2004 CSC assault and charges

 In August 2004, Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton sexually assaulted an acquaintance while he was on duty. During the investigation of the victim's complaint, other  victims of Norton's  stepped forward...Including a victim from 1994.

It was discovered during the 2004 - 2005 investigation that before he was Chief of Police for Colon, Kenneth Norton was a deputy on the St. County Sheriff Department.  He was terminated from the sheriff department in  August 1994, after a victim filed a CSC complaint against him. Criminal charges were never filed against him AND on April 15, 1995, Kenneth Norton became Colon's Chief of Police.

Former police chief given probation
Saturday, October 8, 2005
Kalamazoo Gazette

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.


Ex-police chief avoids jail time
Due to a plea agreement, the former Colon law enforcer will lose his certification.
South Bend Tribune
September 05, 2005

CENTREVILLE -- Former Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton will lose his law enforcement certification and will be listed on Michigan's sex offender registry, but he's expected to stay out of jail for his guilty plea last week to one charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Calhoun County assistant prosecutor Deirdre A. Ford, acting as special prosecutor in the case, agreed to drop two additional felony charges in exchange for Norton's plea and his participation in a sexual offender treatment program.

Norton, 60, of Colon, was originally charged July 6 with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for an Aug. 14, 2004 incident when a Colon woman alleged that Norton exposed part of her breast and then fondled her without her consent. Police reports indicated Norton, then Colon's top law enforcement officer, was in uniform when he came to the woman's home during his work shift.

Ford subsequently amended the complaint to add charges of second-degree CSC in which a weapon was used and a felony firearms violation, both charges that could have brought mandatory jail time.

A Michigan State Police affidavit said Norton initially admitted to investigators that he had exposed part of the woman's breast, but he denied touching her. However, last week Norton told St. Joseph Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman that he did touch the woman's breast without her permission during a visit to her residence.

Judge Stutesman set Norton's sentencing for Oct. 7 and agreed to continue his personal recognizance bond.

The fourth-degree CSC charge carries a maximum punishment of up to two years in jail and/or a $500 fine, plus mandatory testing for HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases. It also will require Norton to register his whereabouts on Michigan's Sex Offender Registry.

Defense attorney J. Richard Colbeck, of Coldwater, Mich., told the court Norton already has begun a sex offenders treatment program also required in the plea arrangement negotiated with Ford. Terms of that plea agreement are expected to keep Norton from serving any jail time if he satisfies all other conditions of the deal.

Eliminating the two felony charges will not save the long-time police officer's law enforcement certification, however. Larry Jones, an investigator in the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards compliance section, said sentencing for any crime that has a penalty of one year or more of jail time forces the permanent revocation of a police officer's certification. Fourth-degree CSC has a maximum jail penalty of two years.

Norton was reported on an extended, planned vacation and made no public comments when the charge was announced in early July. The Colon Village Council took no immediate action to change the longtime chief's employment status. But trustees subsequently met behind closed doors before publicly announcing the chief's resignation in late August.

Norton responded to court questions during last week's brief plea hearing in a quiet, hesitant tone and had no comment when leaving the courtroom. A St. Joseph County Sheriff's Department deputy assigned to courthouse security hugged Norton and offered him words of encouragement before returning to her post.

Ford acknowledged that Norton has strong support in the community and among law enforcement officials.


Facing sex charges, police chief quits
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The Kalamazoo Gazette

Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton resigned Tuesday, six weeks after he was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving the inappropriate touching of a woman.

Additional charges of felony firearm and second-degree criminal sexual conduct in which a weapon was used also recently were filed against Norton in the case.

Colon village officials accepted Norton's written letter of resignation at a special meeting Tuesday night, Village Council President Anthony Wolowicz said.

Wolowicz said council members were told of Norton's resignation request during a closed session. The council reconvened in public and Wolowicz announced the chief's resignation, he said.

Norton, 60, had been on vacation since early July when the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge against him became public. A police affidavit said Norton, a Colon resident, was in uniform when he came to a 33-year-old woman's apartment, made comments about her breast, pulled on her shirt to expose part of her breast, then put his hand down her shirt and fondled her.

The affidavit says Norton admitted to moving the woman's shirt to expose part of her breast, stating that he thought the woman was willing to allow that. He denied he fondled her.

The woman made a complaint with authorities shortly after the Aug. 14, 2004, incident, according to Michigan State Police investigators. A special prosecutor from Calhoun County was assigned to the case.

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison, second-degree criminal sexual conduct is a 15-year felony and felony firearm carries a mandatory two-year minimum sentence.

Wolowicz said village officials will discuss filling Norton's position at its next regular meeting Sept. 13.


More charges for chief
Additional allegations made; Norton pleads not-guilty
Sturgis Journal, MI
Aug 5, 2005
By Kathy Jessup Journal correspondent

CENTREVILLE — Colon Police Chief Kenneth Norton entered a not-guilty plea this week in a case of criminal sexual conduct allegations.

Norton is charged for accusations that he fondled a Colon woman’s breast in August 2004 while he was on duty.

But a Calhoun County prosecutor has added two more charges. If Norton were convicted of those charges, it could result in mandatory jail time and a loss of his police certification.

Meanwhile, a Michigan State Police investigator said Thursday “other people” have come forward with claims that they experienced similar sexual abuse by Norton.

“We have some old instances that are similar, but at this point nothing is chargeable,” said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Michael Spring of the Paw Paw Post. “The other residents said they have had contact with him, but they’re too long ago to pursue. They would testify if this comes to trial.”

Spring declined to elaborate on the identity of others who made claims or what they have told police.

According to Anthony Wolowicz, Colon village president, and J. Richard Colbeck, Norton’s Coldwater attorney, Norton has been “on vacation” since early July, when the charges first became public.

Norton has been unable to be reached for comment. Colon village attorney David C. Tomlinson has continued to say the situation is under study and that the Colon Village Council currently has no meeting scheduled to consider any change in Norton’s employment status.

Calhoun County assistant prosecutor Deirdre Ford was named special prosecutor in the case after St. Joseph County prosecutors disqualified themselves, citing previous law enforcement relationship with the defendant. Ford initially charged Norton with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, which includes inappropriate touching with force or coercion.

A St. Joseph County Circuit Court official said the charges were recently amended to add a more serious count of criminal sexual conduct, second-degree, in which a weapon was used, along with a felony firearm charge.

A police affidavit indicated Norton, a Colon resident, was in uniform when he came to a33-year-old woman’s apartment. According to the affidavit, he allegedly made comments about her breast, pulled on her shirt to expose part of her breast, then put his hand down her shirt and fondled her.

The police affidavit says Norton admitted to moving the woman’s shirt to expose part of her breast, stating that he thought the woman was “willing” to allow that. He denied having fondled her.

The report does not indicate a firearm was drawn or threatened. The woman told police “she did not know what to do because Norton was working and in full uniform.”

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of up to two years. Second-degree CSC is a 15-year felony, and a felony firearm charge carries a mandatory two-year minimum incarceration, Spring said.

According to Spring, the alleged victim made a complaint shortly after the August 14, 2004, incident. But he said charges did not come until 11 months later due to a “long delay in getting a special prosecutor.”

Norton has been free on a $2,500 bond and ordered to have no contact with the complainant.

Calhoun County Prosecutor John Hallacy declined to comment Thursday about whether the additional charges were brought to pressure Norton to plead guilty to the original, lesser charge.

“We added those charges based on the facts and the circumstances of the case,” Hallacy said.

Colbeck said Thursday he does “not see this going to trial.”

Norton, a former St. Joseph County Sheriff’s deputy, has been Colon’s police chief for more than a decade.