SEATTLE — A senior King County Metro employee is accused of raping a teenage girl and coercing her to engage in prostitution.
Mark L. Norton is Metro’s superintendent of Transit Security and Emergency Management. The King County Sheriff’s Office arrested him Tuesday in Stanwood on Investigation of Trafficking and Investigation of Rape 2nd Degree. He was taken to the Snohomish County Jail.
Investigators believe Norton, 45, groomed the female victim from 2008 to 2013. They say she was 16 when it began.
They met in the Civil Air Patrol, according to probable cause documents, when she joined as a cadet. He then asked her to babysit his children, investigators said, before eventually moving her into the basement of his home.
“Detectives believe this suspect used emotional and psychological coercion to convince the victim to participate in prostitution for his benefit,” a spokesperson for KCSO wrote.
Investigators believe he raped her, and when she turned 18 began sex trafficking the girl on Craigslist.
Norton’s case will be focused in Snohomish County, KCSO said, because some alleged crimes have expired under the statute of limitations. They believe he acted in both King and Snohomish counties.
According to police records, Norton admitted to participating in the trafficking on recorded conversations between him and the victim and apologized several times.
King County Metro issued a statement Wednesday.
“We are shocked and deeply disturbed to learn of the allegations and are cooperating with investigators,” Metro wrote. “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.”
Metro said it’s conducting its own investigation to determine if any other code of conduct violations occurred.
Metro added Norton had been promoted to a new position Friday – since his arrest that has been canceled.
He was scheduled to make his initial appearance in Snohomish County court Wednesday afternoon.
No one answered the phone listed for him in the police report.
Robert Beiser, of the group Seattle Against Slavery, said it can often be difficult for victims of trafficking to escape their situations, because the manipulation is based on existing relationships.
“One of the issues around helping trafficking victims is peoples’ expectation about exploitation and trafficking looks like,” he said. “There might be people out there that could be helped just by making contact with them and asking if they’re okay.”
He said it’s important to note that trafficking doesn’t fit a stereotype – so it’s important to say something if you see something.
“Knowing that you can always reach out to someone who might be in trouble and lend a helping hand or make a connection for them, it’s important for people to know,” he said.
He also directed people to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, which will connect callers with local resources.