Alonna Norberg describes 'true horror' in sexual assault case against husband
FARGO - "It was true horror." That is how Alonna Norberg described for jurors on Friday the image she awoke to one night in June 2011.
She said she found her husband, Jon, engaged in oral sex with her, and she couldn't breathe.
"I felt like I was choking. It was like I was suffocating," Norberg said, adding that moments later she blacked out.
On the witness stand on Friday in the trial of her husband, who is accused of drugging and raping her, Alonna Norberg said that night in June wasn't the first time she suspected her husband of having sex with her without her knowing, but she said the earlier experiences, some of which she described as brutal, seemed so strange and unreal she wasn't sure she didn't dream them.
But the incident last year the night of June 16-17 was different, she said.
In the morning, she found a syringe on the floor and a bottle of propofol - a powerful sedative - in the bedroom of the home she shared with her husband, a Fargo physician. She said she was frightened and confused but collected what evidence she could.
And while her husband slept, Norberg said she made a video record of the scene, turning on a light to make sure she captured the propofol bottle.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Alonna Norberg, who is also a physician, said she never gave her husband permission to give her propofol, nor did she ever consent to having sex while under its influence, key issues in the state's case against Jon Norberg, who is charged in Cass County District Court with gross sexual imposition, a Class AA felony punishable by up to life in prison.
He is also charged with reckless endangerment, which carries a potential sentence of up to five years.
The defense has argued that Alonna Norberg made up allegations against her husband because she wanted custody of their children as part of a divorce and that she knew she wouldn't be given custody because of dependency on prescription drugs and other issues.
'A side benefit
Mike Gjesdahl, a family law attorney appointed to do investigative work in the divorce case, testified under subpoena Friday that he spoke with Jon Norberg in February 2011.
Gjesdahl said Norberg told him he had administered propofol to his wife more than 30 times and that he had had consensual sex with her while she was under its influence 10 times.
Gjesdahl said Norberg contacted him the next day to modify his comments, stating he had sex with his wife six times while she was under the influence of propofol, not 10 times.
"He (Norberg) said propofol can provide the patient with an amorous effect," Gjesdahl said, adding that Norberg referred to the aphrodisiac quality of the drug as "a side benefit."
Gjesdahl said Norberg told him he administered the drug to his wife over an 18-month period that ended in June 2011.
In her testimony Friday, Alonna Norberg described four instances in which she woke in the morning with signs she had had intercourse during the night but had no recollection of it.
One was the June 16-17 incident in which Norberg said she found the syringe and propofol bottle.
Another incident, she said, occurred three days later on June 19-20 after which she said she discovered a number of propofol bottles in the trash, which she collected and gave to a neighbor.
Norberg said she then took her three children and the family dog and, with the help of their babysitter, headed to western North Dakota to stay with family, telling her husband they were going to help relatives deal with the Minot flood.
'Get it out of the house'
Norberg testified she began suffering from myriad medical ailments, including chronic pain, following, the birth of her third child.
She said at one point in 2010 her husband suggested she take a medication he called Diprivan, which he told her was being used in studies involving patients with chronic pain.
"It was mainly for sleep," she said.
"I just trusted him," Norberg added, estimating she took the medication three times before asking her doctor about the drug during an appointment in September 2010.
She said when her doctor informed her that Diprivan was a brand name for propofol, she was shocked and embarrassed and confronted her husband about it.
"I told him ... get it out of the house and never give it to me again," Alonna Norberg said.
She said that after the June 19-20 incident in 2011 she didn't immediately go to authorities with her suspicions because she "didn't want to hurt Jon, and I didn't want to hurt our family."
In his cross examination of Alonna Norberg, defense attorney Bob Hoy took pains to spotlight her numerous academic and medical achievements and her role in producing a handbook designed to guide law enforcement and health care workers in collecting evidence in sexual assault cases.
Hoy's questioning was in keeping with a contention made by the defense during opening statements that Alonna Norberg schemed to frame her husband.
His cross-examination of her will continue on Tuesday when the trial resumes. The trial, which began with jury selection Monday and testimony on Wednesday, is expected to last at least through next week.
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.