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No Jail in Criminal Case for FBI Vet Linked to Golf Pro

Jun 7, 2010 – 11:10 PM
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Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel Contributor

(June 7) -- A former California FBI agent who federal prosecutors say abused his position to help pro golfer Greg Norman in his 2006 divorce was sentenced today in an unrelated case to one year's probation, including three months of home confinement, The Orange County Register reported.

Peter Norell Jr., a veteran agent out of Orange County, was sentenced for illegally accessing FBI records and pressuring someone in 2005 to pay a $500,000 debt owed to an acquaintance and other investors.
Greg Norman
Nick Laham, Getty Images
Peter Norell Jr., the ex-FBI agent with ties to golfer Greg Norman, pictured here, was sentenced to a year of probation in an unrelated case on Monday.

Norell -- popular among his peers, some of whom reportedly showed up in court to support him today -- was not charged in the Norman incident in 2006. But it was cited by the government in a sentencing memorandum to illustrate another time that Norell had "misused his FBI position on behalf of a friend."

Norell resigned from the FBI as part of the plea agreement for illegally accessing the FBI records.

During a three-hour sentencing hearing in Santa Ana, Calif., Norell apologized to fellow agents, prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, according to the Register.

"I understand my actions have tarnished the image of the FBI and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry," he said. "I accept full responsibility for my actions."

The judge said he did not believe Norell deserved jail time, but added, "I do remain concerned about people in positions of trust and do think the sentence should reflect that."

He also ordered Norell, the son of a former Superior Court judge, to 100 hours of community service and a $3,000 fine, the paper reported.

Norell pleaded guilty to accessing the FBI database to look up information about a man identified in court records only as "T.S.," who owed $500,000 to Norell's acquaintance Robert Lo and other investors. Lo is also described as a source in a court document.

The FBI database showed T.S. had a prior conviction and served a brief jail term for a copyright-related charge.

The government alleged that Norell never intended to open an investigation, and knew it was therefore illegal for him to access the FBI computer for non-FBI purposes.

After looking up the records, Norell and Lo went to T.S.'s home early on the morning of Sept. 16, 2005, with Norell knocking on the door and yelling something to the effect of "Police, open up" or "It's the FBI," court documents said. No one answered, so Norell called T.S. at 6:46, 6:47 and 6:48 a.m.

Eventually, T.S. opened the door.

"When the police are at your front door, you should immediately open up," Norell said, according to the government document. Norell flashed his badge, and T.S. let Norell and Lo inside.

Norell discussed the debt and "asked T.S. if he liked being in jail. He then threatened T.S. that he could open up an [FBI] investigation into T.S., but would not do so as long as T.S. paid Lo back," court documents said.

After that visit, T.S. had two more conversations with Norell, which he secretly recorded.

In one instance, according to court documents, Norell said: "What I'm trying to do is I'm trying to straighten out the situation so I don't have to be involved anymore. You get the gist of it, you know, some people want to get paid back."

The incident involving golfer Norman took place in June 2006.

According to a government sentencing memorandum, Norman and his wife, Laura, were going through a divorce. Norman's former business partner, Earl Takefman, who was friends with Laura, was trying to pass on information that might be helpful to her in the divorce proceedings.

Norman, through a friend, got in contact with Norell, the sentencing memorandum said.

The government document alleged that on June 22, 2006, Norell called Takefman and said he was calling on behalf of Norman and Norman's associates. He told Takefman that he had "crossed the line" and that it was best if he "shut [his] mouth" in the future.

Norell's tone during the conversation "was threatening and aggressive," and Takefman was concerned about his safety and reported the incident to the FBI in Los Angeles, the government document said. Subsequently, Norell "misrepresented the true nature of the Takefman incident" to hide from a supervisor the fact there was no legitimate reason to make the call.

In a sentencing memo filed on Norell's behalf, Norell's attorney, Thomas McConville, described Takefman "as someone who had threatened to 'get' Mr. Norman and who 'harassed' Mr. Norman; as someone with a 'vendetta,' and who was 'obsessed,' 'bitter' and 'vindictive' as a result of his dealings with Mr. Norman."

And while Norell may have used bad judgment, he did not profit from the incident, his attorney said.

"He has been forced by the government to resign from his job of 14 years, and he has admitted his guilt before the public -- and far more excruciating -- his professional colleagues. Mr. Norell has no job currently to support his wife and three young boys," McConville wrote.

Norell's sentence today came after numerous former and current FBI agents and federal prosecutors and family members wrote laudatory letters to the judge about Norell.

About four dozen FBI agents signed a letter to the judge saying, "Pete is a great role model. He acted with integrity, and performed his job at the highest level. ... We say without hesitation that Pete is someone who we trust, and are proud to consider him a colleague and friend."

Norell's father, Peter H. Norell Sr., a former California Superior Court judge, wrote about his son, nicknamed "Chip": "One of the proudest days of my life was when Chip was sworn in to the FBI.

"His record with the FBI has been outstanding. He has received numerous awards from the FBI and also received an award in 2008 from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the same people who are prosecuting him today."
Filed under: Nation, Crime
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