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Published January 14 2013

Credibility at issue again in Norberg divorce trial

FARGO – The divorce trial between Fargo doctors Jon and Alonna Norberg picked up Monday where his criminal trial left off – with attorneys trying either to defend or erode her credibility.

A jury acquitted Jon Norberg in November of charges accusing him of drugging his wife with the powerful sedative propofol without her permission and sexually assaulting her. The highly publicized, two-week trial took place with dozens of onlookers in a spacious courtroom in the new Cass County Courthouse addition.

This week’s trial began with a different feel, as 10 people, about half of them family members, watched from three rows of benches in a small, stuffy courtroom.

As Judge Steven Marquart noted at the trial’s start, nothing has been resolved in the divorce and everything is at issue, including custody of the couple’s three minor children and division of assets.

Among the assets are the couple’s homes in Fargo and Florida, more than $660,000 in financial assets and anywhere from $581,991 to nearly $1.1 million in business interests, according to each spouse’s separate valuations listed on an asset and debt listing filed with the court Friday.

Jon Norberg also listed more than $300,000 in personal property, including $40,000 in Thomas Kinkade paintings (valued by his wife at $17,344) a $6,000 home theater and $4,000 in fur coats.

Attorneys waived their right to make opening statements in the trial scheduled to take all week.

Alonna Norberg’s attorney, Patti Jensen, called as her first witness Dr. Brent Hella, a personal friend of the couple who graduated with them from medical school at the University of North Dakota in 1996 and later treated Alonna Norberg as a patient.

Jensen questioned Hella about Alonna Norberg’s medical condition, eliciting testimony to confirm she has an autoimmune disorder – a diagnosis doubted by Jon Norberg’s criminal defense team and again Monday by his divorce lawyer, Susan Ellison.

After Hella listed the seven medications Alonna Norberg is currently taking, Ellison asked if he was surprised the number had dropped so far from the 40 meds she was on when he saw her June 16, 2011, around the time of the alleged sexual assaults.

“I was happy that she was off the other medications,” Hella said.

When asked if there was any medical explanation for it, he said, “My only explanation is that her mental health and surroundings and everything have improved since leaving the home.”

Marquart will likely take the case under advisement at the conclusion of the trial, which is expected to last a week, and issue his ruling at a later date.

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