Rudy Giuliani’s city-subsidized love trysts, celebrated in the “Driving Miss Judi” hoopla of recent weeks, appear to have inspired imitators. We already know all about Bernie Kerik’s highest-form-of-flattery mimicry—his infamous seizure of a Ground Zero apartment, set aside for first responders, for a juggling act of escapades with two, as Rudy would put it, “very special friends.” And then there’s the saga of Ed Norris, who rose to deputy commissioner for operations at the NYPD in his mid-30s under Giuliani and became Baltimore’s police commissioner in 2000.
Norris, who was still at NYPD headquarters when the Judi Nathan adventure began in 1999, pled guilty to federal charges in 2004 that he had used a supplemental police fund in Baltimore as if it were his own ATM, “financing romantic encounters with several different women.” The original indictment referred to eight women entertained by the police chief on the public tab, but that was later reduced to six. Prosecutors also claimed that the married Norris used the apartment of his chief of staff for workday liaisons that were called “naps,” sometimes occurring several times a day. Within months of taking over as police commissioner, he billed an October 2000 stay with “female number one” at the Best Western Seaport in New York to the fund, according to the indictment. The estimated $20,000 in playtime billings included luxury hotels and gifts from Victoria’s Secret, and his final plea included admitting to looting the funds and not paying taxes on the income.
A folk hero in certain quarters of Baltimore, Norris returned to the city after doing six months in federal prison and became the top-rated radio talk-show host there, declaring in one newspaper interview that all some people know about him is his supposed penchant for “gifts for girls all over the United States.” A shaved-head look-alike for Kerik, Norris is a regular on the HBO series The Wire, playing a homicide detective often furious with Baltimore’s powers that be. He was such a successful police commissioner that Republican governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. made him the head of the Maryland State Police in 2003, just months before his indictment.
Norris was an NYPD deputy commissioner for nearly five years under Giuliani, in charge of developing and implementing anti-crime strategies. “I met with Rudy every Thursday,” briefing him on the week’s crime data, Norris said in a Voice interview. As recently as late 2006, Norris saw Giuliani at a political fundraiser for Ehrlich, who is the mid-Atlantic chair for Giuliani’s presidential campaign. “I was emceeing the event,” says Norris. “Rudy gave me a big hug. He was very happy for me.” Fresh from prison at the time, Norris was still on parole, which will not end until next month. When Politico.com broke the story about how the Giuliani administration hid costs associated with providing then-mistress Judi Nathan with police escorts, Norris went on the air to defend Giuliani. “I said that I didn’t know what the real allegations were. He was entitled to 24-hour police protection anyway, and I can’t imagine he knew how it was being billed,” Norris says. “I definitely defended him. I know what it’s like to be falsely accused.” A recent Times story raised doubts about just how much of the hidden Giuliani expenditures were attributable to these Hamptons trips to see Judi. But no one doubts that, regardless of how the trips were billed, the city spent a small fortune between 1999 and 2001 to bring the new lovers together.
Norris told the Voice that he was forced to plead guilty to the playtime expense charges even though he “absolutely” maintained his innocence, because the feds had him on an unrelated charge involving a false mortgage application that he could not beat. Asked if that meant he did not have “female number one” with him at the Best Western in 2000, Norris said he could not answer that question “because we are in the middle of fighting” those allegations. Asked if that meant he had filed a civil suit against the federal prosecutor—a frequent target of Norris barbs—Norris said there might be unspecified legal actions “in the future.” Norris has publicly appealed for a pardon from the Bush White House.
Asked if Giuliani recommended him for the Baltimore job, Norris said: “He must have,” recalling how he and the Baltimore mayor visited Giuliani after the Ravens beat the Giants in the 2001 Superbowl. “Rudy was always very good to me,” said Norris.