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Published October 18 2012

Norberg case: Sex toy, porn mags excluded as evidence

FARGO – A sex toy, pornographic magazines and a large amount of cash found inside a gun safe in the home of a Fargo surgeon accused of drugging and sexually assaulting his wife won’t be evidence at his trial next month, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Douglas Herman also agreed to exclude mentions of high-profile cases involving the powerful sedative propofol, which Jon Norberg is accused of giving his wife without the proper medical staff and safety equipment present. That means no mentions at trial of the death of pop star Michael Jackson, which was brought up at a hearing last week.

“I don’t want any other cases tried here,” Herman said in Cass County District Court.

Norberg is charged with gross sexual imposition – a Class AA felony carrying up to life in prison – and reckless endangerment for allegedly drugging his wife with propofol and engaging in sexual acts with her while she was unconscious.

Norberg has acknowledged he gave his wife the drug 32 times over a period of 18 months and that they had sex while she was on the drug, but he says it was always consensual, a claim she has refuted.

On Thursday, the judge and attorneys discussed a defense request for the prosecution to file a rarely used “bill of particulars,” which provides more specificity in the charges against the defendant.

Norberg’s attorney, Robert Hoy, argued that the state should have to specify on which occasion Alonna Norberg didn’t consent to having sex while on propofol. The charges against Norberg allege the crimes occurred between Sept. 1, 2010, and June 20, 2011.

“How do we defend against an entire 9½-month period?” Hoy said.

Hoy criticized prosecutors, saying they want to charge one sex act and “shotgun everything” in hopes a jury will conclude that Norberg did something bad at some point.

“They’ve alleged a single act. They should be held to proving a single act,” Hoy said.

Prosecutor Gary Euren, an assistant Cass County state’s attorney, said that because the allegation is that Alonna Norberg was unconscious when the sex crime took place, it’s impossible to know exactly when it happened.

Herman ultimately ordered the state to prepare an amended bill of particulars specifying the dates of the alleged sex crime as June 16-17, June 19-20, around St. Patrick’s Day 2011 and various other times that the custody investigator in the Norbergs’ divorce case may testify about.

In regard to the sex toy and porn magazines, co-prosecutor Reid Brady noted they were found in Norberg’s gun safe in proximity to propofol and other prescription drugs.

“We would argue that it shows what his intent was,” Brady said.

Hoy said the items are legal to possess and bringing them up during the trial would be prejudicial to his client.

“They simply don’t tend to prove anything,” he said of the items.

Herman agreed, saying no matter how many times he instructed the jury that the items are legal, “they’re going to think a person who has that is from a different planet.”

Norberg’s trial begins Nov. 5 and is scheduled to last three weeks. The state has 58 possible witnesses.

Though The Forum does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual assault, Alonna Norberg consented to be named to contest her husband’s claims that he never sexually abused her and had her permission to give her propofol to treat her pain from an autoimmune disease.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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