A high school teacher accused of having sex with six male students has a brain condition that left her defenseless to the students' aggressive behavior, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Nicole DuFault, 36, of Caldwell, pleaded not guilty in April to aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment charges. DuFault was a language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood before she was arrested last September.
Authorities have said the victims were 14- and 15-year-old boys and the assaults occurred numerous times between 2013 and 2014. Some of the sex acts occurred on school property and in DuFault's car, they said.
Her attorney, Timothy Smith, told NJ.com that the teacher suffers from "frontal lobe syndrome," a condition that experts say is associated with socially inappropriate behavior. It also leaves them unable to control their impulses, among other symptoms.
Smith said DuFault's condition stems from brain surgery she had after complications from her first pregnancy. During that surgery, a shunt was installed in her brain, he said.
Prosecutors said they still plan to press forward with their case.
"All too often victims of sexual abuse are demonized by their abusers. 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," Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Gina Iosim, who is handling the case, said in a statement. "We continue to prepare for trial so our juvenile victims may find the justice they are seeking."