The lawyer for a former New Jersey teacher accused of having inappropriate relationships with high school students said Wednesday that his client committed "a victimless crime."
Nicole McDonough, 32, is charged with three counts of second-degree official misconduct for allegedly having improper relationships with three 18-year-old male students. She faces a mandatory sentence of five years in prison if convicted, which her attorney says is unjust.
At a pretrial hearing, McDonough's lawyer, Timothy Smith, said that three students with whom McDonough allegedly was involved "each said they have not felt victimized," NJ.com reported.
"If ever there was a victimless crime, this is it," Smith said in court. He also pointed out that McDonough is the mother of two young children, and that her father is battling cancer.
A judge previously stuck down McDonough's motion for "Pre-Trial Intervention," a probationary program that would dismiss her charges without a guilty plea. In New Jersey, the program is generally available to first-time offenders and seeks rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration.
NJ.com reports that Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Schellhorn adamantly disagreed with Smith's take on the charges, saying that there was "a strong need to deter" McDonough's alleged behavior.
"[She was] seeking out sex and propositioning high school students for sex," Schellhorn said in court. "This was not a victimless crime."
McDonough, a former teacher at West Morris Mendham High School, was indicted in March on charges of having sex with at least one student and engaging in indecent communications with all three. Investigators said the alleged conduct took place in 2013 and 2014.
She doesn't face sex crime charges because all the teens were legal adults, according to the New York Daily News.