NEWARK, N.J. – An attorney representing a New Jersey teacher accused of sexually assaulting six male students is already building a defense based on the educator’s “brain trauma and surgery.”
New Jersey attorney Timothy Smith is defending Columbia High School teacher Nicole Dufault, 35, who stands accused of 40 counts of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child for alleged sexual trysts with six of her male students in 2013 and 2014, NJ.com reports.
Evidence in the case allegedly involves a video of Dufault performing oral sex on one student with another nearby.
But Smith alleges “sometimes a video … doesn’t tell the whole story” so he’s filling in some of the details.
“I feel confident in stating and firmly believe in my heart that there is only one victim, not six, and that victim in Nicole Dufault,” Smith told NJ.com. “If justice is served, not only should Ms. Dufault be fully exonerated, she should also be compensated by those directly and indirectly responsible for her tragic victimization.”
Smith was arrested in September after police searched her home and allegedly recovered the clothing she was wearing in the oral sex video. Police allege she engaged in sex acts with six different male students between 14 and 15 years old on numerous occasions in 2013 and 2014. Some of those alleged incidents took place at school, and in the teacher’s car, police contend.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office took offense to Smith’s assertion that Dufault is a victim in a strongly worded statement this week.
“Sadly victims of sexual abuse have traditionally been demonized by their abusers. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage for a victim – especially a juvenile victim – to come forward, knowing the unfortunate stigma that some in society place upon victims of sexual abuse,” according to the statement.
“We eagerly await an opportunity for this matter to be resolved in court.”
The blame-the-victim strategy is not a new defense, nor a particularly effective one.
In a recent case in Michigan, attorney Michael Manley argued that former Catholic school tutor Abigail Simon, 35, was the victim of a manipulative and controlling 15-year-old male student. Throughout the 11-day trial in November, Manley went on the offensive against Simon’s accuser, while Kent County Prosecutor Helen Brinkman illustrated through more than 1,000 text messages and other evidence the sexual nature of the relationship and the tutor’s attempts to keep it under wraps, Mlive.com reports.
“There is nothing she won’t throw out there to same him or humiliate him rather than take ownership for her actions,” Brinkman said.
“We need to end this circus of denial and victim humiliation now,” Brinkman told jurors in her closing remarks. “Find her guilty.”
The jury did exactly that, and Judge Paul Sullivan in January sentenced Simon to between 8 and 25 years in prison.
“The embarrassing things that came out in a very public trial are an embarrassment, frankly, to both people,” Sullivan said in sentencing Simon, noting specifically how the victim’s family was cast in “a negative light,” Mlive.com reports.