Skip to content
Home » Netflix Documentary Examines Case Of Professor Prosecuted For Sexually Assaulting Nonspeaking Man

Netflix Documentary Examines Case Of Professor Prosecuted For Sexually Assaulting Nonspeaking Man

Netflix Documentary Examines Case Of Professor Prosecuted For Sexually Assaulting Nonspeaking Man

ISELIN, N.J. — She said it was love.

His family said it was rape.

The case of the New Jersey professor and the man with a disability she pleaded guilty to assaulting is headed to Netflix.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

In the documentary “Tell Them You Love Me,” director Nick August-Perna interviews Anna Stubblefield, the former Rutgers University professor at the center of the case, and the family of Derrick Johnson, the man with a disability identified as “D.J.” in court proceedings.

Per production company Mindhouse, the film, which had its TV premiere on Sky in the United Kingdom in February and premieres in June on Netflix, promises to tell “an endlessly nuanced story about communication, race and sex.”

Here’s a recap of the case as reported by NJ Advance Media over the years.

Stubblefield, a white, then-married, former chair of the philosophy department at Rutgers in Newark was accused of sexually assaulting Johnson, who was identified as D.J. during coverage of the case.

Johnson, a Black man who has a mental disability, cannot speak and has cerebral palsy.

A series of sexual encounters between Stubblefield and Johnson happened in her Newark office in 2011, when she was 39 and he was 29.

That year, the professor told Johnson’s family about the sexual activity, which she claimed to be consensual. The Newark family asked her to leave Johnson alone and reported her to Rutgers, who reported Stubblefield to Essex County prosecutors.

Stubblefield, who lived in West Orange, claimed she had used facilitated communication to talk to Johnson.

The controversial method involved Johnson using a keyboard with Stubblefield’s assistance.

Johnson’s brother, who was Stubblefield’s student at Rutgers, introduced her to him in 2009, thinking she might be able to help Johnson through the use of facilitated communication.

Johnson’s mother Daisy, who appears in the film alongside Johnson and his brother John, testified that he uses diapers and needs help to walk, get dressed, bathe and eat.

In 2015, a jury convicted Stubblefield of two counts of first-degree aggravated assault after Johnson was found to be unable to legally consent to sexual relations with the professor.

She was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

“I don’t think Anna understood the depth of pain she caused my family,” Johnson’s brother said at Stubblefield’s 2016 sentencing.

“An able-bodied woman raped a disabled young man that could not consent to sex,” he said. “You were wrong, Anna. You committed a crime. There is no gray area.”

Stubblefield was ordered to pay $4 million in damages to Johnson’s family in a 2016 civil case after his mother and brother sued the former professor and Rutgers in 2013.

In 2017, Stubblefield’s 2015 assault conviction was overturned.

An appellate court determined that the former professor did not get a fair trial because the findings of an expert witness for the defense were not included in the case.

Multiple experts for the prosecution testified about Johnson’s impaired mental state.

But Dr. Rosemary Crossley, an augmentative and alternative communication specialist, said that Johnson could communicate and read.

However, Crossley’s three-day video evaluation of Johnson to reach that conclusion was not brought into evidence because she had used facilitated communication as part of her methodology. The judge rejected the use of the technique because they said it was not a “recognized science.”

Stubblefield served less than a year and six months at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County.

In 2018, Stubblefield, then 48, accepted a plea deal. She pleaded guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated criminal sexual contact, admitting that she knew Johnson, then 37, could not legally consent to sex.

Stubblefield was sentenced to time served and parole supervision for the rest of her life. The former professor was required to register as a sex offender.

“I’m not guilty of a crime,” the mother of two says in a trailer for the true-crime documentary, despite her plea.

August-Perna, director of “Tell Them You Love Me,” has co-directed documentaries including “The Swell Season” (2011) and “The Oxy Kingpins” (2021).

Louis Theroux, a well-known BBC documentarian who co-founded Mindhouse Productions, is the executive producer.

“Tell Them You Love Me,” which runs 1 hour and 42 minutes, will be released June 14 on Netflix.

© 2024 Advance Local Media LLC
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop’s free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.

Verified by MonsterInsights