KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Former Clay County auditor William J. Norris was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 days in jail for tampering, and five years probation for making a false sworn statement following a 41 Action News investigation into nude photos and Norris' secret felony background.
In November 2011, Clay County prosecutors charged Norris with a felony for "false swearing" in a candidate form where he claimed he had not been convicted or pleaded guilty to a felony.
The 41 Action News investigation uncovered a sealed 2005 felony aggravated stalking plea that Norris denied in election papers when he ran as a Republican for Clay County auditor.
Prosecutors also charged Norris with "tampering with computer data" in connection to nude photos of a woman the 41 Action News investigation found in his Photobucket.com account.
Amanda Grabos, the nude photo victim in the new criminal case, says the 41 Action News investigation saved her reputation.
"Thank you for everything," Grabos said. "I would have to say you're my hero."
Social networks, online databases, and open records requests identify seven women's stories
The 41 Action News Investigators used social network searches, online databases, and open records requests to uncover sealed court records and identify Grabos as one of seven women who claim Norris either distributed their nude photos, impersonated them online, harassed them, or stalked them.
In July, the investigation found nude pictures of Grabos in a Photobucket account registered to Norris.
Court papers indicate police found the same photos on Norris' computer and an Internet history indicating he'd accessed the website that published the nude photos.
VIEW THE PROBABLE CAUSE STATEMENT | View or download the pdf
"Oh my God," Grabos said recalling the day she saw the nude pictures online. "What is my family going to think?"
She says, as a newlywed, she took what were intended to be very private photos for her husband on her phone.
‘The pictures were intended for my husband," Grabos said. "Not for William Norris."
Throughout our investigation, Norris repeatedly denied knowing Grabos or recognizing the woman in the photos.
"William knows exactly who I am," Grabos said.
Grabos and Norris both grew up in the small Missouri town of Trenton. Norris was a family friend.
Victim's theory on how Norris obtained nude photos
Grabos says, one night, she forgot her purse on a table.
"I believe that he probably took my phone and either e-mailed or text messaged himself the photos and took them for himself," Grabos said.
Court documents indicate, besides the 2005 felony stalking case, Norris also pleaded guilty to violating a protection order, but the case had been sealed until a court order following the 41 Action News investigation.
Another case of felony stalking and four additional charges of protection order violations were dismissed.
Despite the felony plea, Norris signed a sworn election document stating he had never pleaded guilty to a felony when he ran for office as a Republican in the 2010 Clay County election for auditor.
"It's been a long time coming and it's about time something happens," Grabos said.
Police find politician's 1.825 GPA
Our investigation showed Norris was not a graduate of William Jewell or a CPA as he claimed.
Police statements indicate Norris did attend William Jewel, but did not graduate because he didn't have enough hours and had a cumulative GPA of 1.825.
He resigned after the 41 Action News investigation.
Nude photos and Internet evidence found on Norris' computer
The police statement indicates Norris also had the nude photos on his computer and his Internet history showed repeated access to Grabos' Facebook page.
The police investigation indicated Grabos' nude photos were posted publicly shortly after Norris accessed the website where they were published.
After our investigation, the website removed her picture, her marriage grew stronger, and in two months, Grabos expects her first child.
From our original investigation:
William Norris is a 28-year-old Republican who defeated an incumbent to win the Clay County Auditors seat in November 2010.
His denials of a felony conviction were adamant during our investigation.
"I have never plead guilty to, or been convicted of a felony," Norris said in an email to 41 Action News. "Any legal matters I have ever been a part of have been misdemeanor offenses or have been pled down to misdemeanor offenses with a term of probation of the suspended imposition variety."
In 2004, Seanacie Turner was a high school student in Chillicothe, Missouri. Norris, then 21, lived up the road in Trenton.
"I was in love with this perfect person," Turner said during our investigation.
Six years later
that perfect person became the perfect candidate by claiming he was a CPA, a corporate comptroller and a graduate of William Jewell College.
Our investigation found Norris wasn't as perfect as he seemed.
Republican leaders raised concerns about his credentials prior to his election, but Clay County residents voted out every Democrat who faced a Republican opponent in 2010.
Some attributed his victory to the name recognition of another Norris, a former Clay County prosecutor and judge, Donald T. Norris.
He says William Norris is no relation.
"Never heard of him before the election," Donald Norris told 41 Action News. "Absolutely not, not even close. Matter of fact, well, I started to say something, but I better not say that."
In June 2011, William Norris invited us to his office at the Clay County courthouse for an interview.
He changed his mind when we told him his background and credentials were the subject of our investigation.
We told him the state said he was not licensed as a CPA, the company he claimed he worked for said he was never a comptroller and William Jewell College said he was never a graduate.
"I'm not in the business of making myself look bad on camera," Norris said.
As we tried to convince him to go on camera, we specifically asked him about Seanacie Turner, the high school sophomore he dated seven years ago.
"I don't know of a Seanacie Turner," Norris said. "No, I don't. This is even ridiculous."
Turner said she wasn't surprised he claimed not to remember.
"I definitely was scared, Very scared," Turner said, recalling high school romance that deteriorated into allegations of stalking. "He stalked me. He followed me at work. Harassed me at work. He broke into my car while I was taking classes."
Police reports identified Norris as the suspect in a series of allegations including following her to work, harassing her by phone and text messaging, receiving threats from Norris that he would kill himself, threatening to drag Seanacie's name through the mud and threatening to distribute an embarrassing photo.
She says humiliation ultimately came in the form of a nude picture.
"I was getting calls from people saying ‘hey, I just got this picture e-mailed to me,'" Turner said.
Seanacie Turner wasn't alone. We identified other women whose crossed paths with Norris led to police complaints. An article in the Trenton Republican-Times published on July 11, 2005 not only alleged that Norris violated a restraining order protecting Turner, but also reported his arrest for stalking a second woman, Destiny Miller.
Two more women came forward. Candace Lindley from Chillicothe and Tosha Altes from Trenton also went to police with similar claims of stalking, but the results of those cases are unknown because the court records are sealed, providing no record of Norris' guilt or innocence in any of the cases.
"I never plead guilty," Norris claimed up until one day before we published our investigation. "I've never been convicted of a crime."
We obtained a receipt from the Grundy County Courthouse showing that in one of those sealed cases, Norris paid $46 to the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund. The payment is recorded right above an entry for felony costs listed as $279.50.
41 Action News presented the information we gathered to Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White. He said in his experience as a prosecutor, a $46 payment to the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund has only meant one thing: "A finding of guilt or a plea of guilty to a C or a D felony," White said.
White also said the documents obtained by 41 Action News have prompted his office to make a formal request to Grundy County to obtain the sealed court cases. "You've given us enough evidence that it warrants us checking into it," White said.
Six weeks after our investigation began, and one day before we published, Norris admitted to other media that he had, in fact, pled guilty to a felony.