Spielberg stalker faces up to 25 years in prison

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The Independent Online
A MAN arrested with a "rape kit" outside the gates of Steven Spielberg's home was found guilty yesterday of stalking the movie director.

Though convicted on only one felony charge, Jonathan Norman could face 25 years to life in prison under California's "three-strikes" law. Norman, 31, was caught last July equipped with duct tape, a knife and handcuffs as he ran from private security guards near Mr Spielberg's home in Pacific Palisades, north of Santa Monica.

He also carried a diary with the names of Mr Spielberg's family and business associates. Prosecutors claimed that Norman was sexually obsessed with Mr Spielberg, and planned to rape him and even make his wife, the actress Kate Capshaw, watch. The court heard that he went to the Spielberg estate at least four times, once driving a Land-Rover similar to Ms Capshaw's, and told people he was the director's adopted son.

Stalking remains Hollywood's recurrent celebrity nightmare. Mr Spielberg, one of the best-known and most powerful figures in the entertainment industry, told the court that though he was in Ireland when Norman was arrested, the threats had terrified his family. "I think he is on a mission and I don't think he will be satisfied until he accomplishes his mission," he said.

Norman, 31, has been in custody on $1m bail. His defence argued that he was fanatical follower of Mr Spielberg, but had never threatened the director. He had been bingeing on amphetamines, his lawyer said, questioning why Mr Spielberg did not fly home after the arrest to check on his family if he took it so seriously.

Because Norman pleaded guilty two years ago to two counts of assault, the jury went back into deliberations yesterday on whether he should qualify for the harsh sentences prescribed by the "three strikes" law - a minimum of 25 years. Even without it, Norman faces a substantial jail term.

California was the first state to adopt an anti-stalking statute in 1990 after the television actress Rebecca Schaeffer was shot dead outside her home.

The law defines stalking as placing a person in fear of his or her safety, even without intent to carry out the threat. Last year the state increased the maximum sentence on a first offence to four years, and formed a new Stalking and Threat Assessment Team to isolate cases of stalking and workplace threats before they escalated into violence.

Norman was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Rhonda Saunders, who secured a 10-year sentence in the most recent celebrity stalking case involving Madonna. Robert Hoskins was found guilty of stalking and threatening the singer and her assistants. He was cornered inside her estate by two security guards after declaring he wanted to make her his wife.