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Former East Cleveland Mayor Facing Federal Obstruction Of Justice Charges

Federal prosecutors have charged former East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton with obstructing justice, alleging he lied to investigators during the course of a bribery and fraud investigation.

Norton faces one count of obstruction, according to a Monday filing in federal court. A former city hall employee, Vanessa Veals, was also charged with obstruction.

The charges stem from interviews the FBI conducted in 2018 as part of a grand jury investigation that had begun the year before. Norton, first elected in 2009, had left office by then, after losing a 2016 recall vote by 20 votes.

FBI agents met with Norton on Sept. 17, 2018, telling him not to discuss the interview with anyone besides his lawyer, according to charging papers.

But Norton disclosed the news to Veals that same day, prosecutors allege. Veals then deleted emails she had received from Norton, according to the charges.

Norton had sent those emails to Veals in July of that year, asking her to print out attachments on City of East Cleveland letterhead, according to the charges. Prosecutors allege that Veals did so, forging the signature of another employee on the documents.

When FBI agents and investigators from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development later asked Norton if he had told anyone about the interview, he falsely said he had not, according to the charges.

The charging documents do not say specifically what federal agents were investigating when they interviewed Norton. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman declined to elaborate.

John Mitchell, an attorney representing Norton, declined to comment. An initial court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 12 by video conference.

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