FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday acquitted a North Dakota surgeon accused of drugging his wife and raping her while she was unconscious on all charges.
Jon Norberg showed no emotion as the verdict was read in the Fargo courtroom. His brother, Doug Norberg, lowered his head and exhaled.
Norberg, 42, could have faced up to life in prison if convicted of gross sexual imposition and reckless endangerment. The jury deliberated for about four hours before finding the orthopedic surgeon not guilty.
"It's going to be a truly very Happy Thanksgiving for Jon and his family," defense attorney Robert Hoy said after the hearing.
Prosecutors claimed Norberg injected his wife, Dr. Alonna Norberg, 42, with propofol in June 2011 and had sex with her against her will while she was unconscious. Defense attorneys said she made up the rape allegations to help her in a looming divorce and child custody case, fearing she wouldn't get the children because of an alleged addiction to prescription drugs and mental health issues.
The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes, but Alonna Norberg has spoken publicly about the case, once to deny claims by her husband that she agreed to take the medication as part of treatment for a debilitating disease.
Jon Norberg said he injected his wife with propofol regularly over an 18-month period. Alonna Norberg, a pediatrician, said her husband advertised the drug to her under its brand name, Diprivan, and she didn't know it was the same thing as propofol. She said she stopped using it after a few times.
Propofol gained notoriety in the trial of the doctor who treated pop star Michael Jackson. The key witness in that case, Dr. Steven Shafer, a professor of anesthesia at Stanford University, also testified in the Norberg trial and told jurors that Jon Norberg was not qualified to administer propofol and risked his wife's life.
Alonna Norberg testified earlier in the trial she awoke on the night of June 16, 2011, to find her husband forcing her to perform oral sex. Defense attorney Robert Hoy said during the trial that the sex was consensual.
The state Board of Medical Examiners has indefinitely suspended Jon Norberg's license. Prosecutors said Alonna Norberg did not want to see her husband criminally prosecuted or lose his ability to practice medicine, but she wanted him to stop giving her propofol.