Rutgers-Newark professor Anna Stubblefield is asking a Superior Court judge to throw out her conviction last month on charges of sexually assaulting a disabled man.Meanwhile, on the academic front, at least one of her articles, faces possible retraction by the journal which published it.
Stubblefield has filed a motion with Judge Siobhan Teare to set aside the jury's guilty verdict and either grant her a judgment of acquittal or a new trial, court documents state. Stubblefield was convicted on Oct. 2 of two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault. The sexual acts occurred in her Newark office in 2011.
The 34-year-old victim, known as D.J., has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak beyond making noises. Psychologists have determined he is mentally incompetent and cannot consent to sexual activity.
But Stubblefield, 45, of West Orange, claimed during the trial that D.J. is not intellectually impaired and was able to communicate through a controversial typing method, known as "facilitated communication." Stubblefield said she and D.J. had fallen in love.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Stubblefield's attorney, James Patton, said the motion is based on how there was "insufficient evidence" to prove Stubblefield knew or should have known D.J. was mentally defective to the point where he could not consent. Patton declined to elaborate on that argument.
Stubblefield's sentencing was scheduled for Monday, but it has been postponed because she still has to be interviewed at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Woodbridge, a facility for persistent sex offenders, according to Patton.
That interview will lead to a psychological report that is expected to address whether Stubblefield is a compulsive sex offender, Patton said. The report will impact how she is ultimately sentenced, he said. Those reports are required for anyone convicted of a sex offense in New Jersey, he said.
Her new sentence date is Jan. 15, court records show. As a first-degree offender, Stubblefield is facing a potential state prison term of between 10 and 20 years on each count for a maximum possible sentence of 40 years.
Patton said he is planning to ask Teare to sentence Stubblefield as a second-degree offender and impose an overall prison term of five years. The potential sentence for second-degree crimes is 5 to 10 years in prison.
an article she wrote in 2011 about facilitated communication has come under scrutiny. In that article, Stubblefield accused those who criticized the technique of practicing "hate speech."
That article was published in an issue of a journal called Disability Studies Quarterly, which is overseen by the Board of Directors of the non-profit Society for Disability Studies. The issue also included an article allegedly written by D.J.
Board chairwoman Brenda Brueggemann said in an email on Thursday that "we have had a number of queries asking us if we would be reevaluating the articles (either one or both) and considering either 'retraction' or what the publishing industry calls an 'expression of concern.'
"In a few cases we have had not just queries but demands for retraction," Brueggemann said.
In response to those queries and demands, the board on Oct. 29 published a statement on the society's website. The statement was posted on Nov. 3 on the journal's website.
The statement reads as follows:
"The Society for Disability Studies (SDS) Board of Directors, as the final oversight and decision-making body of Disability Studies Quarterly, is aware of the many questions and debate regarding several articles published in the 2011 (31.4) issue. As an intellectual community, centered on scholarship, research, and learning, we are paying significant attention to the issues raised. We have not yet come to a decision. The case itself, regarding the authors, is not yet concluded."