A former Las Vegas police officer accused of stopping female drivers while on duty and coercing them into exposing their breasts pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors Monday.
John Norman, who resigned earlier this month from the Metropolitan Police Department, told Judge Melisa De La Garza he was guilty of oppression under the color of office and open or gross lewdness.
A sentencing hearing was set for Oct. 30 before Judge Abbi Silver. Norman faces probation or up to two years in jail. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
As part of a deal, prosecutors dropped six other counts against Norman. Also, if Norman successfully completes the sentencing obligations, the open and gross lewdness charge would be dismissed and replaced with another count of oppression under the color of office, and his sex offender registration would be expunged.
Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said Norman appeared to have gotten a “sweetheart deal.” Lichtenstein questioned the part of Norman’s plea that would enable him to have his status as a sex offender expunged if he completes his sentencing obligations.
“It certainly raises questions whether a police officer was given a break,” Lichtenstein said. “One could argue because of the power we give police officers, they should be held to a higher standard. … It sounds like a sweetheart deal for him.”
Bill Sousa, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that nationally, cases such as Norman’s are uncommon. He said when those kind of allegations are made against officers, they tend to grab headlines.
“It’s the type of thing that is very sensational,” Sousa said. “Misconduct comes in all sorts of forms. But that specific type of activity is extremely rare.”
Authorities said Norman in 2011 pulled over two women in separate traffic stops and compelled them to show their breasts. He also is accused of fondling one of the women.
Allegations of misconduct also were made against Norman by two other women. Those allegations were investigated but did not rise to the level of crimes, police said.
According to Norman’s arrest report, a woman on Dec. 28 reported to police that she had been pulled over and groped during a traffic stop.
Police said the stop occurred Dec. 11 near Tropicana and Eastern avenues.
Norman told her to pull into the back of a church parking lot so he could conduct some tests.
The report said that during the traffic stop, the woman told Norman that she had a prior arrest for driving under the influence and that during the arrest marijuana was found.
Norman told the woman he stopped her because she didn’t have license plate lights.
The report said Norman asked to “physically search” her.
The woman consented. Norman asked whether she would be more comfortable if a female officer conducted the search. Norman then told the woman he needed to search her bra “because women put things in their bra or sew things into their bra,” the report said.
Norman then asked the woman to lift her shirt. At one point, she took off her bra on his order, and he groped her, the report said.
Norman told the woman he was not going to cite her because of her cooperation. He let her go without performing a field sobriety test.
On Jan. 1, a second woman came forward and told investigators of an incident involving Norman.
He blocked her vehicle as it entered an apartment complex near Flamingo and Paradise roads.
Norman told the driver he didn’t have a reason to stop her but said they were in a high-crime area.
One of the women in the vehicle admitted to Norman that she had warrants for traffic offenses, the report said.
Norman told her he was going to arrest her for the warrants.
While patting her down, Norman asked her to put her fingers under her bra and shake it to make sure nothing was in the bra. The report said Norman searched her twice before putting her in the back of his patrol car. He then drove around the corner.
Norman told the woman it was her lucky day because he had to go out on a “hot call” so she wasn’t going to be arrested. When he removed her handcuffs, he repeatedly ask whether she had anything hidden in her bra.
Norman also said she wasn’t doing what he asked correctly. After asking her a third time to shake out her bra, he said: “My, aren’t we bashful today,” the report said.
The woman sensed that Norman wanted to see her breasts. She then pulled down her shirt and bra and exposed her right breast, the report said.
Norman then let her go, the report said.