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Declared a Danger, Spielberg Stalker Gets Sentence of 25 Years to Life

June 18, 1998|SUE McALLISTER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A former bodybuilder whose sexual obsession led him to stalk film director Steven Spielberg was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison after a judge called the defendant's behavior "frightening."

Spielberg, speaking of his continuing fear, appealed to Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Steven C. Suzukawa to harshly punish the stalker, Jonathan Norman, 31.

"I genuinely in my heart of hearts believe I could have been raped, maimed or killed. The same thing could have happened to my wife or kids," Spielberg said. "If he's out on the street, I will live in fear that he is prowling around the neighborhood."

The conviction was Norman's third strike, which enabled Suzukawa to impose the stiff sentence. The judge denied a motion for a new trial and declined to dismiss one of the two previous strikes against the Los Angeles resident.

According to testimony, Norman had three pairs of handcuffs, duct tape and a box-cutter in his possession when he was arrested last summer in front of Spielberg's Pacific Palisades home. The director was in Ireland working on a movie at the time.

Later investigation showed that Norman had recorded the names of Spielberg's family members in his day planner, along with a shopping list including items like eye masks, dog collars and chloroform. He also leased a car similar to the one driven by Spielberg's wife, actress Kate Capshaw, in the hopes of getting past security guards at the couple's home, prosecutors said.

During conversations with a former roommate and police, Norman openly acknowledged a desire to rape Spielberg, authorities said.

At the time of his arrest, Norman was on parole for a 1995 incident in which he pleaded no contest to two counts of assault after driving his car toward a group of people during an argument.

The pleas earned Norman two strikes under California's three-strikes law--neither of which the judge would forgive.

"I frankly find his behavior obsessive and frightening, and I think he is a danger to society," said Suzukawa said.

Norman's attorney, Charles L. Kreindler, said he planned to appeal the conviction, which he said was influenced by Spielberg's celebrity status.

"I don't feel [Norman] is the type of person that the three-strikes law is designed to put away for the rest of his life," said Kreindler, who told the judge his client deserved leniency because he suffers from methamphetamine-induced psychosis and other mental problems.

"If the victim involved was . . . anybody that wasn't as famous and powerful as Mr. Spielberg, this case was never going to be brought."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Rhonda Saunders said the stalking law Norman violated "is there to try to save lives, and it doesn't matter if the victim is a celebrity or the victim is a person like you or me."

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