Metropolis: Thursday, April 21, 2004
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Reading the Signs

Wirt Norris’ chief accuser speaks out on the internet.

By Dan Malone

Will Hallman, for more than a year, has been the looming X-factor in the Wirt Norris investigation. The 21-year-old aspiring musician has maintained a public silence since he accused the prominent, politically connected diving coach of sexual molestation.

Hallman’s silence and his struggle to regain mental health have raised questions about whether he will be strong enough to testify in two high-profile trials. With little notice, however, Hallman has begun to speak out. And his words are those of a composed young adult who seems capable of calmly confronting the man he accuses of wrecking his life.

“I would like [Norris] to be in a safe place where he cannot abuse anyone else,” Hallman wrote last month in an article posted on a web site dedicated to the case. “I don’t think he deserves to rot in hell as some people think he should, but I do believe that he is a danger to society at large and he needs to be behind bars.”

Hallman is among dozens who have expressed opinions on the case at www.wirtnorris.com, a website operated by Tim Kaastad, the brother of one of Norris’ earliest accusers, Rolf Kaastad. The site, which serves as a clearinghouse for information, leads, and speculation, initially was a gathering place for a growing community of Norris’ accusers. In recent months, however, someone has attempted to lure a wider audience by posting bumper stickers with the site’s url on road signs around Fort Worth and Westover Hills.

Norris, except for short statements in which he asserted his innocence, hasn’t had much to say publicly about the accusations. He said Tuesday that he was aware of the site but had never seen it.

“I’m not interested in looking at that web site,” he said during a brief telephone conversation. “I don’t even own a computer.”

He did, however, agree to listen as Hallman’s comments were read aloud. But after listening, Norris declined comment and referred questions to his attorneys, as he has in the past. “I have lawyers who handle all that,” he said.

Norris’ criminal defense attorney Mike Ware this week described the site as “a tool used to vilify Wirt Norris along with anybody who has the courage to speak out in his behalf.”

“Trial by internet [and] bumper sticker, fortunately, is not part of our American justice systems,” Ware said. “Whoever printed up these bumper stickers has obviously lost sight of that.”

Site operator Kaastad, however, said www.wirtnorris.com is open to anyone. “While intended as a place for victims and families, the web site has published every comment made by others in support of Norris, without censorship, and would in fact publish any comments by Mr. Norris or Mr. Ware.”

Fort Worth Weekly broke the Norris story early last year on its own web site, www.fwweekly.com, after Rolf Kaastad, Hallman, and others began to tell their stories.

Hallman decided to end his silence last month, after one of Norris’ supporters entered the wirtnorris.com discussion forum and began using such terms as “junkie faggot” and “queer boy” to describe Norris’ accusers.

In response, Hallman wrote: “I hate to have bad relations with people, so I am just going to try to keep things peaceful between us ... You probably don’t have any interest in what I’m about to say, but bear with me. ... If people called one of my friends a pedophile, I’d freak out ... but I know I’m telling the truth. I didn’t put up this web site. ... I’m just trying to keep the streets safe for young children.

“If I saw [Norris] on the street,” Hallman continued, “I would say hi to him and walk off. Do you know why? Because I am not the judge of humanity and no offense, but neither are you. You can talk to [Norris] all you want. That won’t bring you the truth of the situation. He will deny it up and down. Trust me, I talked to him when I made the mistake of calling him up and harassing him. I say it was a mistake because you can’t fight evil with evil. It’s kind of like a double negative, and they cancel each other out and both parties are left feeling like shit.”

Because people who post to the forum are allowed to use pseudonyms, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know the identities of frequent commentators like “Anonymous,” “Reaper,” or “Cat-in-the Hat.” It’s also impossible to tell whether someone might be posting under another person’s name. But Hallman’s attorney, Bill Kirkman, confirmed that Hallman wrote the two posts bearing his name. And Kirkman said Hallman decided to speak out on his own. Neither his parents — powerhouse attorney William P. Hallman and Nancy Hallman — nor Kirkman knew about his plan beforehand.

Kirkman said Hallman is “beginning to look forward to the opportunity to testify. I’m cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be up to the task.”

Hallman has filed civil and criminal complaints against Norris, accusing the 76-year-old retired real estate broker of sexually abusing him and plunging him into psychological turmoil. Those complaints say Hallman was abused at age 12 at Norris’ home on Eagle Mountain Lake. Norris, who made his wealth by selling real estate to some of Fort Worth’s best-known families, had recently brokered a transaction for the Hallmans. After winning the family’s confidence, Norris invited the boy to the lake house for ski lessons, which, according to the Hallmans, turned into a molestation nightmare.

Since Hallman and Rolf Kaastad told their stories, about 10 other men — some buoyed by Hallman’s and Kaastad’s courage — have been identified or come forward as victims. Many of Norris’ accusers, well into middle age now, say they were molested as teen-agers decades ago. Only Hallman thus far has claimed to have suffered abuse within the statute of limitations. All other known complaints against Norris are too old to prosecute. Under Texas law, victims have until their 28th birthday to file criminal complaints against alleged child molesters. That window gives accusers 10 years after turning 18 to deal with their ordeal before deciding to take action.

The timing of the two cases against Norris remains in the air. Neither the criminal nor the civil case against Norris has been scheduled for trial. It’s not clear which might take place first or how the outcome of one might impact the other.

On documents filed in court in recent months, however, the battle lines have begun to emerge. The Hallmans have circled their wagons around their son’s medical records, for fear that the records be made public in an attempt to embarrass Hallman and force him to drop the civil damages lawsuit.

Just what might be in those records remains unclear. In a verbal summary during a hearing last year, one of Norris’ attorneys, Chuck Aris, said that Hallman, before he leveled abuse accusations against Norris, had complained about “being molested by a baby-sitter and a camp counselor at age 11.”

But Hallman attorney Kirkman says both assertions are false, based on mistakes in the records, and were made public only in an attempt to embarrass Hallman and his family. “There are no other molestation incidents of Will Hallman that he or his father or anyone reported, period paragraph,” Kirkman said.

Norris has used his constitutional right against self-incrimination to deflect pointed questions from Hallman’s civil court attorney. For example, Norris initially declined to answer written questions in the civil case about the specifics of the Hallman case.

Hallman, meanwhile, seems to be taking comfort from the growing number of people who have rallied around his case on the internet.

“This site means a lot to me” he wrote. “I hope we all get the justice we deserve. One of my good friends told me that if we keep the pressure on [Norris], then it’s all the better. Thank you guys for all the support.”



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