The suspect works as King County Metro's manager of transit security and emergency services for King County Metro Transit, a spokeswoman confirmed. He has been placed on unpaid leave.
A 45-year-old Stanwood man is accused of coercing a teenager into having paid sex with men and forcing her to marry his barber, a foreign national who needed to obtain a green card to legally stay in the U.S., according to the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Mark L. Norton, who was booked into jail Tuesday on investigation of second-degree rape and first-degree trafficking, made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon. A judge found probable cause on both counts and released him pending the filing of charges, The Everett Herald reported.
Norton worked as manager of transit security and emergency services for King County Metro Transit, a spokeswoman confirmed. He has been placed on unpaid leave.
According to the Herald, Norton is also the former commanding officer of the Civil Air Patrol’s Paine Field squadron. The Civil Air Patrol is the U.S Air Force’s civilian auxiliary, according to the organization’s website.
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The Patrol issued a statement Wednesday, saying Norton — a major who most recently served as deputy commander of the Washington Wing’s Northwest Group — was immediately suspended from its membership. (Each state is considered a “wing.”) The statement says all members must undergo an FBI background check and Norton was most recently cleared for membership in October 2017. All senior members also undergo training in accordance with the Patrol’s cadet-protection policy, the statement says.
Norton is accused of grooming the girl between 2008 and 2013, then prostituting her in Seattle, Lynnwood and Everett, according to a sheriff’s news release. While the King County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation, detectives coordinated with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and prosecutors in both counties, the release says.
According to the probable-cause statement outlining the police case against him, Norton was a 33-year-old major in the Civil Air Patrol when he met the girl, a 16-year-old cadet, in summer 2007.
The next year, Norton asked the girl to babysit his two young children, then began grooming and raping her, says the statement. At some point, he moved the girl into the basement of his house. Norton’s first wife discovered the relationship and subsequently divorced him, it says.
After the girl turned 18, the statement says Norton began posting online ads offering sex with her in exchange for money, according to the statement. Detectives allege he was paid so she would appear in at least three pornographic films and he also got paid for forcing her to marry his barber, a foreign national who needed to obtain a green card to legally stay in the U.S., the statement says. The barber was in the U.S. on a student visa but the statement doesn’t say where he is from.
A detective checked the barber’s immigration file and confirmed the wedding took place and saw that Norton was listed as the barber’s financial sponsor, according to the statement.
The statement says the woman repeatedly told Norton she didn’t want to participate in prostitution or the marriage scheme but he coerced her into doing so. On at least one occasion, Norton physically threatened her, it says.
The abuse ended in late 2015, when the alleged victim, now in her 20s, was able to get away from Norton, the statement says. The statement does not say when she reported the alleged sex crimes to police. Sgt. Ryan Abbott, a King County sheriff’s spokesman, said the statute of limitations for some of Norton’s alleged crimes has expired.
Sheriff’s detectives obtained a warrant and recorded phone conversations between the woman and Norton, who was heard on tape saying he had trafficked her, the statement says. He also sent the woman photos of keepsakes that had belonged to her and gifts she had given him, it says.
According to a Seattle Times database, Norton was hired by Metro in 2010 and was paid nearly $120,000 in 2017, the last year county payroll data is available. He is listed as a transit superintendent.
“We are shocked and deeply disturbed to learn of the allegations and are cooperating with investigators,” says a statement released by Metro on Wednesday. “While in custody, this employee will be on unpaid leave, and we are exploring avenues to take immediate steps regarding this employee’s ongoing employment. Meanwhile, we are conducting our own administrative investigation to determine if any additional or unrelated code of conduct violations may have occurred.”
A spokeswoman said Norton was promoted on Friday but that job has since been rescinded.