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Published November 14 2012

'Bombshell' in Norberg trial: Surgeon tried to cut deal with father-in-law to get wife to recant

FARGO – The prosecution dropped what the judge described as “a bombshell” this afternoon in the trial of Fargo surgeon Jon Norberg.

His father-in-law testified that a week before the trial, Jon Norberg met with him at a Fargo restaurant and suggested Alonna Norberg recant her claims that the surgeon – her husband – drugged her without her consent and sexually assaulted her while she was sedated.

Alonna Norberg’s father, Robert Knorr, said he was in Fargo for a North Dakota State University football game on Saturday, Oct. 27, when he learned through a family member that Jon Norberg wanted to meet with him. They spoke briefly at the game and agreed to meet at 11 a.m. the next day at Mexican Village in south Fargo.

Under questioning by Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Gary Euren, Knorr said the conversation started with small talk and then Jon Norberg said he “wanted to visit about the trial that we’re in now.”

“He said that he thought that this would be very harmful to the children and to the families, and I agreed with him, and I said, ‘Jon, as far as I see it, there’s nothing that we can do,’ ” Knorr said.

He said Norberg told him he wanted a “global settlement” to resolve the criminal matter, the couple’s divorce case and a civil case that Robert Knorr had filed against Jon Norberg in February regarding a dispute over Knorr’s house.

“He had written down on a slip of paper that Alonna was the only one who could stop this,” Knorr said. “And I said, ‘Well, how would she do that?’ And he said, well, she could either say that it was a dream or that she was lying or that she didn’t remember, and the trial could be stopped.”

Knorr said Norberg “suggested that we would either talk to his attorney or find another criminal attorney and they could tell us what we would have to do” to stop the trial.

“I told him that there was no way that that was going to happen that I could see,” Knorr said.

Knorr said Norberg also talked about how the trial could affect his ability to regain his medical license, which the state Board of Medical Examiners suspended indefinitely in January.

“He said that if this trial had any consequences that had anything to do with medicine or medical that he wouldn’t be able to get his license back,” Knorr said.

“And that would affect his family how?” Euren asked.

“He wouldn’t be able to support them,” Knorr said.

Jon Norberg’s attorney, Robert Hoy, tried to keep the jury from hearing Knorr’s testimony, arguing to Judge Douglas Herman that it was inadmissible as a protected conversation because it was an offer to compromise or resolve ongoing litigation.

But Herman – speaking with jurors outside of the courtroom – said a jury could believe it was an effort by Jon Norberg to obstruct a criminal prosecution, and therefore was admissible.

Herman was livid with the attorneys about the testimony, saying it was the first he’d heard of it and calling it “quite a bombshell that’s being delivered to me now.”

Hoy said the defense knew Knorr was going to be called as a witness but believed he was going to testify about another issue.

Herman said he was “shocked” that the conversation between Jon Norberg and Knorr happened.

“I wouldn’t have guessed in a hundred years that this would have happened, in part because you’ve done such a grade-A-plus job in your representation,” he said to Hoy.

Hoy said it was an effort by Jon Norberg to resolve all of the pending court cases “in any way that was possible.”

“Why would your client do something that is just so bizarre, such incredibly bad judgment?” Herman said. “He’s charged with a double-A felony. Why would he do this? Why would he do this, create this problem? This is ... I can’t imagine. I simply can’t imagine.”

For the full story, read The Forum on Thursday.