Professor accused of assaulting disabled man pleads guilty

A former Rutgers University professor whose conviction for sexually assaulting a disabled man was overturned pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated criminal sexual contact.

Anna Stubblefield entered her plea Monday as part of a deal with Essex County prosecutors in New Jersey. She admitted she should have known the man was legally unable to consent, but declined further comment following the hearing.

Prosecutors will recommend Stubblefield receive a four-year prison term when she's sentenced May 7, and she will get credit for the prison time she already has served.

Stubblefield, who once chaired Rutgers-Newark's philosophy department, testified at trial that she and the man fell in love after she was brought on by his family to help him communicate. Stubblefield said he consented to the relationship by communicating on a keyboard, but prosecutors said Stubblefield used her position to take advantage of the then-29-year-old man, who has cerebral palsy and can't speak.

Stubblefield was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But an appeals court ruled last June that she should get a new trial with a new judge because the trial judge erred by barring testimony from an expert witness for the defense.

Stubblefield's lawyer argued that the expert would have convinced jurors the man could consent to sex. The expert had done a three-day evaluation of the man that included "facilitated communication," a technique that uses a trained person to assist a disabled person, usually with typing.

The trial judge determined facilitated communication is an "unrecognized field of science."

The appellate panel found that because jurors couldn't hear the expert's full assessment of the man, they were left with the impression that no one — apart from Stubblefield herself — believed he had the mental abilities to consent to sex.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who are the alleged victims of sex crimes.

Stubblefield, 48, was married with children when her relationship with the man developed. She met him in 2009 through his brother, who had been taking a college course from her. Over the next two years, she worked with him using facilitated communication. She argued that he could communicate by typing.

The man's family sued Stubblefield and won a $4 million judgment over her treatment of him.