Defense for Maplewood Teacher Charged with Sex With Students: Brain Disorder

Nicole Dufault,  a language arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, is facing a 40-count indictment charging her with aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Dufault 36, – (a resident of Caldwell) and the (divorced) mother of two young sons – is accused of engaging in sexual activity with six students on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2014, prosecutors said. The students were between 14 and 15 years old at the time of the incidents…In one alleged incident, one student recorded a cell phone video of Dufault performing oral sex on another student in her car, court documents state.
As her defense to charges of sexually assaulting six male students, the attorney for Maplewood teacher Nicole Dufault on Tuesday claimed she suffers from a brain condition that left her defenseless to the students’ over-aggressive behavior.
Dufault’s attorney, Timothy Smith, said she suffers from “frontal lobe syndrome,” a condition that experts have said is associated with socially inappropriate behavior and the inability to control impulses, among other symptoms. Smith said that Dufault’s syndrome stems from brain surgery she underwent following complications due to her first pregnancy. During that surgery, a shunt and the related apparatus was installed in Dufault’s brain, Smith said.
The frontal lobes – which are located behind one’s forehead – control the so-called executive functions, including the ability to reason and plan, according to a 2010 report from the National Institute on Aging. The lobes help manage emotional responses and “enable people to control inappropriate social behaviors, such as shouting loudly in a library or at a funeral,” the report said.
…According to a 2014 article in the UCLA Law Review, “A typical argument using this sort of evidence would be that the defendant is less culpable because of a brain abnormality that predisposes him to such impairments in behavior.” A 2007 article in the American Journal of Law & Medicine states:

Frontal lobe damage “effectively removes from the sufferer the segment of the brain that says, ‘Don’t do that! Don’t say that! It’s not appropriate! There are going to be consequences!'”

“Early-onset frontal-lobe damage leads to impairment in the development of moral rules and social conventions,” the article continues. “Thus, damage to the frontal lobe will impair one’s ability to identify violations of social norms.”
Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Gina Iosim, who is handling the case, said…in a statement: “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. We continue to prepare for trial so our juvenile victims may find the justice they are seeking.”

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