Fargo surgeon acquitted on charges he drugged, sexually assaulted wifeFARGO – After a two-week trial, a jury took less than four hours today to acquit Fargo surgeon Jon Norberg on charges accusing him of drugging and sexually assaulting his wife.
By: Mike Nowatzki, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO – After a two-week trial, a jury took less than four hours today to acquit Fargo surgeon Jon Norberg on charges accusing him of drugging and sexually assaulting his wife.
The jury of seven women and five men began deliberations in Cass County District Court at 8:30 a.m. today before returning the verdict at about 1:05 p.m.
Jon Norberg, 42, had faced a lifetime prison term if convicted of the Class AA felony charge of gross sexual imposition, as well as five years in prison if convicted of reckless endangerment, a Class C felony. Jurors found him not guilty on both charges as well as lesser charges on each count that they were required to consider.
Norberg showed little emotion when the verdict was read, other than deeply exhaling in apparent relief.
The emotions flowed soon after, however. The surgeon’s brother, Doug Norberg, an attorney who helped with his brother’s defense, cried and then hugged Jon Norberg, who also embraced his West Fargo defense attorney, Robert Hoy.
“I felt like they finally, that they understood that I was telling the truth and that this is just a sad thing overall and that this is about divorce and custody and it’s not about what she said,” he told reporters.
Alonna Norberg, his wife, had accused Jon Norberg of injecting her with the powerful sedative propofol and using the ether-like substance sevoflurane on her without her knowledge and sexually assaulting her while she was unaware.
The defense argued that Alonna Norberg made up the allegations against her husband because she wanted custody of their children as part of a still-pending divorce and that she knew she wouldn’t get custody because of her dependency on prescription drugs and other issues.
Hoy said they were “very pleased” with the verdict and that it’s been a long 18 months for Norberg.
“It’s going to be a truly, very happy Thanksgiving for Jon Norberg and his family,” said Hoy, who added the jury deliberations were shorter than he expected.
When reached by phone at home at about 2:45 p.m., Alonna Norberg said she had no comment at this time about the verdict.
The case was difficult, said lead prosecutor Gary Euren after the verdict was handed down.
“It was obvious from the beginning it was basically a he-said she-said case, and those are always very difficult, especially with juries,” said Euren, an assistant Cass County state’s attorney.
Euren said he felt the facts were there to sustain guilty verdicts, but he said there also were “so many things going on,” referring to the other legal actions involving the couple.
He said the case was unusual in that depositions and evaluations from the divorce case got into the criminal case.
“That’s not only unusual, it’s almost unheard of to happen,” he said.
Euren said he was “very comfortable” with the way he and co-prosecutor Reid Brady handled the case.
“I don’t think there’s anything else we could have done more or differently, and I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” he said. “I firmly believed in what was charged, and I firmly believed that we needed to proceed to trial in this case.”
Alonna Norberg was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read, nor were her family members who attended much of the trial.
When the verdict on the second count was read, Jon Norberg’s mother, who was seated two rows behind her son, let out a cry of relief and began to sob.
His family, who sat near the back of the courtroom, also cried, and one quietly patted another’s hand.
While Jon Norberg is now free of criminal charges, he still has legal battles ahead. His divorce trial is scheduled for Jan. 14, and a lawsuit filed against him by his father-in-law, Robert Knorr, involving a dispute over a house is pending in McLean County.
The latter case was mentioned during the trial when Knorr testified that on Oct. 28, eight days before the trial was to begin, Jon Norberg met with him and suggested that Alonna Norberg recant her statements as part of a “global settlement” to resolve the criminal matter, their pending divorce case and the lawsuit filed by Knorr.
Against Hoy’s objection, Judge Douglas Herman ruled the testimony admissible, saying a jury could believe it was an effort by Jon Norberg to obstruct a criminal prosecution.
Asked Wednesday if the state planned to prosecute Jon Norberg for obstruction, Euren said, “We don’t comment on ongoing investigations.”
Jon Norberg said there are custody issues still pending regarding the couple’s three children.
“This’ll have a big impact on how that plays out in the long run,” he said. “But, you know, my intention is to spend time with my family, and we’ll work it out so that it’s fair so she gets to spend time with them, as well.”
He said the case has been “surreal.”
“I just hoped that people would be able to see the truth and see that she was not being honest,” he said.
The North Dakota Board of Medical Examiners indefinitely suspended Jon Norberg’s license in January as a result of his administration of propofol to his wife in their home.
Norberg said the board indicated it would hold off on taking any action regarding restoring his license until the outcome of the trial was known.
“And so now that this is done, then I’ll ask them what they think is most appropriate as far as reinstatement of my license,” he said.
A group of jurors who left the Cass County Courthouse out a side exit declined to comment.
Though The Forum does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual assaults, Alonna Norberg consented to be named to contest her husband’s claims that she gave him permission to use propofol on her and that he never sexually abused her.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528