A Columbia High School teacher accused of sexually assaulting five male students may have been blackmailed with video of one of the alleged trysts, according to her attorney.
Fairfield attorney Timothy R. Smith said his office was investigating the possibility that the male students threatened to expose the video unless Nicole Dufault provided them with money or other items.
“We haven’t received the specifics, but we received some feedback to the effect of blackmail, coercion,” he said. “It seems at this point in time that the information we are receiving is legitimate. It’s something we’re obviously taking very seriously.”
Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said there was “no evidence” to support any claims of blackmail or extortion surrounding the video.
An Essex County assistant prosecutor confirmed the existence of the video, which purportedly shows Dufault performing oral sex on one of the 15-year-old students, during a hearing last month. The video was taken by another of the alleged victims, prosecutors said.
At the time, Smith said he had not seen the video, but implied that it did not necessarily prove that Dufault not been victimized herself.
“People are victimized by juveniles all the time,” he said.
Dufault, a 35-year-old language arts teacher at the Maplewood high school, is accused of at least 12 separate sexual interactions with the five boys, including trysts on school property and in her car. She is facing multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, and is being held on $150,00 bond.
Prosecutors say she was also the subject of complaints that she had inappropriate sexual conversations in her classroom prior to her arrest on Sept. 17.
Smith, however, said he continues to receive new information on the case, which he believes will refute much of what authorities have alleged.
“It may be integral to our defense. I think in the end, when all facts have been fully developed, a picture quite different than that which has been painted by the government thus far is going to be depicted,” he said.