A disgraced New Jersey high school teacher accused of having sex with six male students will avoid a jury trial after accepting a plea deal that will send her to prison for five years.
The deal was orchestrated with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and called for Nicole Dufault, 40, to plead guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact — which she did Tuesday, just as jury selection in her trial was set to begin.
The terms of the deal call for a five-year prison term. Her sentencing is scheduled for June.
Dufault, a divorced mother-of-two, was first arrested in 2014, accused of sexually assaulting students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, where she was a language arts teacher.
She’d held the position for nine years.
The victims in this case were either 14- or 15-years-old, and the illicit sexual contact occurred on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2014.
The deal also requires Dufault surrender her teaching licenses and register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
“We believe this is an appropriate resolution,” said Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Plant in a statement.
“We hope that it will deter other individuals entrusted with the welfare of children from engaging in similar acts and ensures the public’s safety by requiring Ms. Dufault to register as a sex offender and forfeit her employment as a teacher in this state,” Plant added.
According to investigators, the improper encounters occurred both on school property and in Dufault’s car.
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By the time her trial was to begin, authorities had charged her with 40 counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Dufault’s attorney, Timothy Smith, had argued that his client’s previous brain surgery left her vulnerable to committing such a crime, reports NJ.com.
Smith said his client suffered from “frontal lobe syndrome,” which some experts say can result in impulsive behaviors.
Smith is going to ask that his client be placed on probation at her sentencing in June.