A female university professor faces up to 40 years behind bars after she was found guilty of raping a severely disabled man with cerebral palsy.
Although she claimed the two had a consensual relationship, a jury found Dr Anna Stubblefield guilty of two counts of felony first-degree aggravated sexual assault against the 34-year-old man, named only as ‘DJ’.
The 45-year-old doctor, who teaches philosophy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, U.S., allegedly assaulted the victim in her office in 2011.
The victim is unable to speak, needs help eating and walking, has to wear incontinence pads, and has severe learning difficulties.
However, Dr Stubblefield’s lawyer said the married professor had worked hard to communicate with DJ through “facilitated communication” – which involves steadying the hand of a person who struggles to communicate because of tremors and helps them to type on a keyboard.
Dr Stubblefield claims he consented to sex through this method, but the man’s family said the victim could not give consent to sexual activity because of his intellectual disability.
When the prosecution questioned how the method could allow him to communicate whether he wanted to stop having sex with her, Stubblefield claimed he could bang on the floor.
Speaking to the jury, Dr Stubblefield’s lawyer James Patton reportedly said:
As I told you on the first day of this trial, it was not a rape or sexual assault. Everyone agrees he has substantial physical disabilities [but] all evidence shows a mutually loving relationship and they made conscious decisions before going ahead.
But the prosecutor Eric Plant said Dr Stubblefield preyed on DJ for her own “sexual gratification” and had sought to isolate him.
Sentencing is set for November 9, although Dr Stubblefield – who has no history of sexual misconduct or criminal record – is expected to appeal Friday’s verdict.