Rutgers professor sentenced to 12 years in prison
Anna Stubblefield, who taught an ethics course at Rutgers—Newark and was once the chair the Department of Philosophy, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and lifetime supervised parole on Jan. 15, according to The Associated Press.
She will also have to register as a sex offender.
Stubblefield was convicted on two counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault after having a sexual relationship with a victim of cerebral palsy, according to nj.com.
She worked with the victim, referred to as D.J., for two years to help him communicate with people through “facilitated communication.” D.J. is unable to speak and has limited control over his limbs.
He is unable to perform many basic tasks like walking and eating on his own. While he can scream and chirp, he cannot control his vocal cords, according to nj.com.
In 2011, Stubblefield said she had an ongoing relationship with D.J., which led to her arrest and subsequent conviction.
Facilitated communication involves a person helping someone who is both unable to move their arms and speak point to pictures, objects or keys to let them “speak” with others, according to the New York Times.
Various researchers said facilitated communication has no evidence supporting its effectiveness. D.J. was declared cognitively impaired, and therefore unable to consent to any sort of relationship, according to nj.com.
During her defense, Stubblefield claimed he was mentally acute and simply unable to control his body.
The prosecution had Paul Fulford determine whether D.J. could consent, according to nj.com. The psychologist had previously examined D.J. Ten years previously, where he helped give D.J.’s family legal guardianship.
During the trial, he said he got no responses from D.J., and that this was due to a mental, not physical condition. He made no claims about D.J.’s physical state.
Previous attempts to verify or debunk facilitated communication have led to mixed results, according to the Times. One patient was able to prove her mental competence by listing the names of objects shown to her but not the facilitator.
Other patients were unable to do so, and several cases indicated the facilitator was doing most of the communication. Stubblefield said she knew she was not forcing her thoughts on D.J. because he shared details she could not have known.
When D.J.’s brother asked for confirmation by asking personal questions that Stubblefield would not have known, the answers were incorrect. His family then barred her from seeing D.J. any further. She was arrested after asking the family repeatedly to see him over the course of several months, when police were first made aware of the relationship.
The University placed Stubblefield on unpaid leave after the arrest, and she was indicted in 2013, according to The Daily Targum.