A New Jersey high school teacher accused of sexually assaulting six underage male students will argue in court that a brain injury prevents her from saying no, her lawyer told NJ.com
Nicole Dufault, a 36-year-old language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, was charged in February in a 40-count indictment alleging she had sex with the boys in her car on school property. All of the boys were 14 or 15 years old.
Dufault suffers from “frontal lobe syndrome," her lawyer, Timothy Smith, said in a statement.
The injury stems from a surgery that occurred from complications after the birth of one of her two children, Smith told NJ.com.
“Ms. Dufault suffers from frontal lobe syndrome, which has rendered her defenseless to over-aggressive behavior,” the statement reads.
Essex County prosecutors said that defense lays the blame on the victims.
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage for a victim, especially a juvenile victim, to come forward, knowing the stigma some in society place on victims of sexual abuse,” prosecutors said.
Frontal lobe syndrome is often associated with a lack of impulse control and inappropriate social behavior.
A article in the American University Law Review notes the case of a 40-year-old teacher with frontal lobe damage who began soliciting prostitutes and making advances toward his stepdaughter after a tumor grew in his frontal lobes. He was sentenced to treatment in a sex therapy program, but failed it because he could not stop asking other patients for sex.
That same article delves even further into the 1848 case of Phineas Gage, whose was injured in a railway explosion that lodged tamping iron into his head. Gage suffered a significant personality change, becoming highly “irritable and amoral.”
The issues of frontal lobe disorder and other impulse control disorders are the subject of significant debate among legal and neuroscience researchers. These researchers cannot agree on what level of punishment is appropriate for people who cannot control themselves.