The Maplewood teacher accused of sexually assaulting five male students has been released on bail.
Nicole Dufault, 35, of Caldwell, posted the $500,000 bail on Oct. 17 and was released from jail two days later, court records show. She spent about a month in custody at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
Her attorney, Timothy Smith, said today in a phone interview that Dufault is relieved about “being home and seeing her family,” and “her friends and family and many of her peers are also very happy to see her.”
“She’s relieved, as anybody would be, that she’s no longer in custody,” Smith said. “She has an extensive familial network, and they all care very deeply for her, and she has a lot of many, many close friends and acquaintances who care very deeply for her.”
Smith declined to explain the specifics of how Dufault was able to cover the bail amount. Court records indicate a bail bondsman posted her bail.
While released on bail, Dufault must stay away from Columbia High School and not have any contact with the alleged victims, said Katherine Carter, spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
At a Sept. 26 hearing, Smith argued for Dufault’s bail to be reduced to $150,000, in large part because she has no criminal history and she has ties to the community.
But Superior Court Judge Michael L. Ravin denied the motion for the bail reduction and said the $500,000 bail was not unreasonable in light of the “severity of the charges and the numerous charges.”
Dufault – a single mother of two young sons – is accused of sexually assaulting the Columbia High School students on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2014. She has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Prosecutors have said the sex acts took place on school property and in her car. A Bloomfield native, Dufault has been a language arts teacher at the high school for about nine years, prosecutors said.
The alleged victims were all 15 years old at the time of the incidents, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Gina Iosim previously said.
The evidence against Dufault allegedly includes a video of her performing oral sex on one of the victims, Iosim said. The video shows Dufault performing the sex act on one of the victims while another victim is present, Iosim said.
During a search of Dufault’s apartment, authorities also discovered a piece of clothing that she was seen wearing in that video, Iosim said.
After that Sept. 26 hearing, Smith said “sometimes a video…doesn’t tell the entire story,” and suggested that Dufault could be the victim.
“If the video depicts certain things happening…that doesn’t mean that my client’s not innocent,” said Smith, adding that “for example, she could be the victim.”
In today’s interview, Smith said he still hasn’t seen the video and added that when “all of the facts…are fully developed, I think a picture quite different than what the government has painted thus far is going to be unveiled.”
“I believe she has valid defenses and…I believe in her innocence,” Smith said.