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A former New Jersey high school teacher accused of having sexual relationships with several underage male students has accepted a plea deal that avoids a jury trial.
Nicole Dufault, 40, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact on Thursday. She will be sentenced in June. New Jersey prosecutors plan to recommend she be sentenced to five years in prison, remain under parole supervision for the rest of her life, register as a sex offender, and forfeit her employment as a teacher, CBS New York reported.
"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," Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Eric Plant said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
Dufault, a divorced mother of two, was first arrested in 2014 on charges of sexually assaulting students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. The disgraced language arts teacher engaged in sexual activity with the boys, aged between 14 and 15 years, both on school property and in her car during the 2013-14 school year, NJ.com reported at the time.
Six victims came forward with allegations against her, and she faced a 40-count indictment in 2015, CBS New York reported. Dufault had pleaded not guilty to all charges at the time.
Dufault's attorney Timothy Smith argued that Dufault was not guilty because of a brain surgery that left her vulnerable. NJ.com reported that he claimed his client suffered from "frontal lobe syndrome," which some medical experts have said is associated with impulsive behaviors and the inability to control them.
In a statement to NJ.com on Thursday, Smith said he will argue that criminal sexual contact only carries a presumption of probation. "I'm thankful to the prosecutor's office for recognizing the unique complexities of this case and affording Ms. Dufault this opportunity," he added.
“It’s our position that the mitigating factors vastly outweigh the aggravating factors,” Smith said, according to the AP.
Prior to working in Maplewood for nine years, Dufault also taught in public schools in Passaic and Bergen counties.
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