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State rests its case in trial of surgeon accused or drugging, raping wife

FARGO - The prosecution rested its case against Fargo doctor Jon Norberg this morning, calling as its last witness a nurse anesthetist who worked with the orthopedic surgeon who's on trial for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting his wife.

Assistant State's Attorney Reid Brady asked nurse anesthetist Paula Schmalz about the equipment she used in sedation and general anesthesia procedures, trying to draw a contrast with what prosecutors contend was a dangerous lack of equipment Jon Norberg had on hand when he administered the powerful sedative propofol to his wife, Alonna Norberg, in their home.

Under cross-examination by Norberg's attorney, Robert Hoy, Schmalz said she worked with Jon Norberg on more than 1,000 procedures and "had the utmost respect for him."

"He always had the patient's best interests in mind," she said.

After the state rested, Hoy motioned for a judgment of acquittal, telling Judge Douglas Herman that the state had failed to prove that Alonna Norberg was rendered unconscious, an essential element in the gross sexual imposition and reckless endangerment charges against Jon Norberg.

Assistant State's Attorney Gary Euren disagreed, referred to Alonna Norberg's testimony that she blacked out during the three times her husband gave her Diprivan -- the brand name for propofol -- with her consent, and that she briefly awoke to her husband performing a sex act on her with no memories on either side of the incident.

Euren also cited testimony from a propofol expert who said that at a high level of moderate sedation, Alonna Norberg would have lacked awareness.

Herman denied the two motions for acquittal.

The defense now has the opportunity to call witnesses of its own.