Former Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield admitted Monday that she had criminal sexual contact with a disabled man who was unable to speak.Could?
Her guilty plea in state Superior Court in Newark comes after years of maintaining that she and D.J., a man with cerebral palsy, were able to communicate and had fallen in love.
Stubblefield, 48, pleaded guilty to third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact as part of an agreement under which the Essex County Prosecutor's Office will recommend a four-year prison sentence.
In her plea allocution, Stubblefield -- dressed in a dark skirt and cardigan -- admitted she should have known D.J. was legally unable to consent.
"What's the highest level of education you've achieved," Judge John Zunic asked her, as he went through a checklist of questions to ensure Stubblefield was making a fully informed decision.
"Doctoral degree," she said.
Stubblefield and her attorney, James Patton, had no comment Monday after the plea hearing.
She was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in a 2015 trial and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but an appellate court reversed the conviction, ruling the trial judge should have allowed expert testimony about a controversial communication technique Stubblefield said D.J. used to express consent.
Records show Stubblefield served just under a year and six months of that sentence at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County before she was released from custody in July in advance of her second trial.
Preparations for that trial were underway when she accepted the plea deal that was finalized Monday.
Assistant Prosecutor Eric Plant, who handled the original case and again represented the state at Monday's plea hearing, indicated Stubblefield could receive credit for time already served under the previous sentence.
She'll be (re)sentenced May 7.
This is the better outcome of this moral dumpster fire of a case of delusion, rationalization and exploitation of another human being, the exploitation being not simply sexual (which it was) but also acting on the fantasy of being DJ's voice. If I recall correctly, the trial record showed that DJ expressed his discomfort with the sexual encounters by 'scooting' away from Stubblefield, among other non-verbal cues. On the pretense that her voice was his, a pretense she should have known was false, Stubblefield overrode D.J.'s non-verbal methods of expressing himself, silencing him.