An investigator’s report details at least two suspected incidents in which a former Los Banos high school teacher now employed as a police officer is accused of having sexual contact with two teenage girls while other students were present.
According to the report prepared by Merced County District Attorney’s Office investigators, defendant Dusty Norris is believed to have exposed himself to one girl and had inappropriate sexual contact with another, while other students watched movies in his classroom.
Norris, 37, briefly appeared in court Monday facing charges of sexual penetration and oral copulation with minors from 2004 to 2007. He did not enter a plea Monday. Instead, his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Christopher Loethen, asked Judge John D. Kirihara to postpone the arraignment until Thursday to give the defense time to become familiar with the allegations.
If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender. Norris, who was working as the department’s on-campus school resource officer, has been on administrative leave from the department since January, authorities said.
“There are numerous inconsistencies highlighted in the report and Dusty and I plan to fight the case vigorously,” Loethen told the Sun-Star.
Norris was arrested Wednesday. He left teaching in 2007 and became a full-time Los Banos police officer in 2008. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing during his time with the Police Department. However, the report details a suspected sexual encounter between Norris and one of the reported victims while he was on duty as a police officer in 2009, after the girl turned 18.
Because the report concluded that the incident occurred when the girl was an adult, no criminal charges have been filed regarding those allegations, according to Katie Gates, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case.
Initially, the woman told investigators a sexual encounter inside Norris’ police patrol vehicle had happened while she was under 18. But department records and other materials led investigators to conclude the claimed incident happened when she was an adult.
She “eventually agreed that the ride along and the consensual sexual contact she and Norris had while (he was) on duty must have occurred when she was 19 years of age,” the report says.
Allegations against Norris came to light during the investigation into Gary Bettencourt, a Los Banos teacher accused of having sex with high school students, authorities said.
The report describes “a couple of strange coincidence” (sic) regarding the Norris and Bettencourt investigations. Norris was the first police officer to receive information regarding the allegations against Bettencourt in September 2015 and Norris took the initial report during the investigation.
“However, instead of taking the victim’s statement and then submitting his report to detectives for follow-up investigation, Norris directly confronted Bettencourt with the allegation,” the report says.
Norris did not conduct any follow-up investigation before confronting Bettencourt, the report says, and police commanders described Norris’ actions as “not in character.”
Commanders said “that Norris’ general practice has been to take initial reports of allegation and happily ship the rest of the work on to the detectives for follow up,” the report says.
Investigators, in the report, wondered if Norris’ actions “were possibly meant to alert Bettencourt to the allegations.”
Also, the report says, during the investigation into Bettencourt, investigators found on Bettencourt’s computer images of Norris exposing himself. The report says Bettencourt apparently obtained the images from a cellphone of a woman who had dated both Bettencourt and Norris.
According to the report, Norris likely was not aware Bettencourt had those images.
Bettencourt has pleaded not guilty to 13 felonies, including unlawful sexual intercourse, oral copulation with a minor and lewd acts upon a child.
Prosecutors last week said the Norris and Bettencourt cases “are not related.” However, at least one girl is believed to have been victimized by Norris and Bettencourt, authorities have said.
One of the reported victims contacted Norris while investigators listened, once via telephone and once in person. She met Norris in the parking lot of a Los Banos church on Jan. 11.
The report states that Norris “coached” her, saying they did not have a sexual relationship while she was in high school. However, the report also notes recorded statements attributed to Norris including: “Whispers of anything I’m fired, my life is over.” The report goes on to say that as the conversation progressed, Norris “did not deny the relationship.”
Investigators also noted that Norris did not report the Jan. 11 encounter with her to anyone in law enforcement.
Regarding the girl believed to have been victimized by Bettencourt and Norris, the report describes “two completely separate sexual relationships that may have overlapped in time.”
Gates on Monday said she could not elaborate on any details of the case and declined to respond to the defense attorney’s statements regarding “inconsistencies” in the accuser’s story.
“I can say that we file charges when we believe we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Gates told the Sun-Star.
Norris is due back in court Thursday for arraignment and bail review.
Norris remained in custody Monday on $200,000 bail, according to jail records.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482