Friday, March 6, 2015

Columbia HS Teacher Nicole Dufault to be Arraigned on April 6

Newark, New Jersey - Nicole Dufault, a 35 year old Columbia High School language arts teacher and Caldwell resident, will be arraigned on April 6. Dufault was indicted in February on 40 counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, after allegedly sexually assaulting six of her students in 2013 and 2014 at the Maplewood school. The students involved were between 14 and 15 years old at the time of Dufault's alleged crimes.

At Superior Court in Downtown Newark this morning, Dufault's attorney, Timothy Smith of Fairfield based Caruso Smith Picini said that she would apply for pre-trial intervention. 

Gina Iosim of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said that a plea deal is being offered to Dufault. In exchange for a guilty plea, Dufault would face 15 years in the New Jersey State Prison system, with no chance of parole until 85% of her term is served. She would also be subject to parole supervision for life and would have to register as a sex offender.

Following her court appearance, Smith said that he does not believe that Dufault will accept the plea agreement. 

"We believe in her innocence", said Smith after being asked why Dufault is pleading not guilty, adding that he felt that his client is the victim.

Janine Gregory, the South Orange Maplewood School District English Language Arts supervisor, told Essex County Place that she is "unable to comment because there's an active investigation going on", and "can't participate in any interviews". Gregory was Dufault's supervisor at Columbia High School.

The alleged sexual assaults took place in Dufault's vehicle and on CHS property. Dufault's shared classroom, B238, was searched by investigators and was closed off to students following her arrest. A sign posted on the door declared the room to be "unusable". The classroom is now being used by other teachers.

Some of the alleged incidents took place during the summers of 2013 and 2014, when Dufault was an English teacher for the Bridge to Success summer program at the high school. According to the South Orange Maplewood School District website, "Bridge to Success is a four-year program that is designed to provide additional support for students who are at-risk...The summer program provides participants with academic and study skills instruction". According to school district board of education meeting documents, Dufault was an instructor for the program in 2011 and 2012 as well, and was paid $50 per hour.

In an interview with Essex County Place in November, Columbia High School principal Elizabeth Aaron criticized media coverage of Dufault's arrest and an unrelated arrest of a student on charges involving possession of brass knuckles.

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