Ex-school board candidate arrested in sex trafficking case

SEATTLE — A one-time Edmonds school board candidate has been arrested in a sex-trafficking case after investigators said he groomed his children’s former baby sitter and used “emotional and psychological coercion” to force her to engage in prostitution — and to marry his barber.

Mark L. Norton, of Stanwood, was arrested Tuesday. He ran unsuccessfully for the Edmonds school board in 2015. According to The Daily Herald newspaper in Everett, he also is the former commanding officer of the Civil Air Patrol’s Paine Field squadron. The patrol is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

Norton served as King County Metro’s superintendent of transit security until last week, when he was named the agency’s interim director of facilities, but he has since been placed on unpaid leave.

The King County Sheriff’s Office said the 45-year-old met his victim in 2007, when he was 33 and she was a 16-year-old cadet in the Civil Air Patrol. He asked her to babysit his two young children the following year. He then began grooming her, persuaded her to engage in sex acts with him and had her move into his home.

Detectives said he eventually pressured her to engage in prostitution with others, arranging encounters online and keeping the money himself, and that he forced her to marry his barber — an immigrant who needed a green card.

It was not immediately clear if Norton had obtained a lawyer.

The woman, now in her 20s, was able to escape Norton in 2015, authorities said. It wasn’t immediately clear when the abuse was reported to police.

Detectives obtained a warrant and recorded phone conversations between the woman and Norton, who was reportedly heard on tape saying he had trafficked her and apologizing.

“We are shocked and deeply disturbed to learn of the allegations and are cooperating with investigators,” King County Metro said in an emailed statement. “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.”

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