I’ve never been a gambler. I think I played the lottery once, joining in with coworkers at one of my jobs. On my first trip to Las Vegas, I tried one of the slot machines a couple of times, but that’s it. I don’t have the stomach for serious gambling. And I’m clearly not good at guessing outcomes. For example, let’s look back at one of my earliest articles about this case: The Louisiana Teacher/Student Threesome Sex Scandal…
I ended that by saying “I think I’d be willing to be that they [Shelley Dufresne and Rachel Respess] end up making plea bargains too, perhaps for 3-5 years in jail, and that these cases never go to trial.”
Well, Dufresne did end up making a plea bargain in one case, but it didn’t include any jail time. As I wrote about HERE, she got 90 days at an inpatient mental health facility, three years of active probation, a $1,000 fine, and the loss of her teaching license.
But there was no plea bargain for this 2nd charge, she took it all the way to court. We learned a few new details yesterday, including that Dufresne had a secret Facebook account under the name Madison Mexicano, with the caption “I love Mexican boys” (the boy in question is Mexican-American), under which she and the boy first began exchanging private messages outside of school. Recovered text messages even show that in July 2014, over a month before the sexual affair began, Dufresne told Respess that the boy was “on my roster for the fall.” So this woman planned in advance to hook up with this kid.
Nevertheless, after one day of the prosecution presenting it’s case and resting, today Dufresne’s defense simply rested their case (without calling Dufresne to the stand), and then both sides gave their closing arguments. And, in the end, after about 2 hours of deliberating, Judge Danyelle Taylor found Shelley Dufresne NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS.
But am I really surprised?
No. No I’m not.
First, once again, Michelle Hunter of NOLA.COM live-tweeted today’s events from the courtroom. I’ve compiled the relevant tweets here: The Shelley Dufresne Trial, Day 2 – Live-Tweeted By Michelle Hunter Feel free to browse that for yourself. She also wrote an article:
Judge Danyelle Taylor, of the 24th Judicial District Court, found Dufresne, 34, not guilty of two counts of carnal knowledge of a juvenile, citing the lack of investigation by Jefferson Parish authorities and an untrustworthy main witness, the teen at the center of the case. While Taylor felt it was likely that something had occurred, prosecutors did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, she indicated.
“I do not believe that the threshold has been met by the evidence presented to this court,” she said later noting the teen’s “braggadocios nature” and his “propensity to lie” created reasonable doubt.
Dufresne had waived her right to a jury trial, so Taylor heard the case. Prosecutors had accused Dufresne of bringing the student to Jefferson Parish for a pair of encounters, part of a month-long sexual relationship that she carried out mostly in St. Charles Parish during the late summer of 2014. Dufresne pleaded guilty Sept. 1, 2015, in St. Charles Parish to a reduced charge of obscenity, and admitted having sex with the teen there. A judge sentenced her to a deferred three-year prison term, three years probation and a $1,000 fine. Jim Williams, Dufresne’s defense attorney, said he felt Taylor made the correct decision.
“The entire prosecution was based upon the things that happened in St. Charles Parish that’s she’s already pleaded guilty to and admitted to,” he said. “They just didn’t have a case here in Jefferson Parish.”
Kim McElwee, Dufresne’s defense attorney and a former prosecutor, took the case pro-bono because she said she believes it should have never come to court in Jefferson Parish.
“Yes, she’s not innocent” McElwee said of Dufresne. “She did these things. She had an improper relationship. She broke the law, and she should be punished. But there’s a difference between innocent and not guilty. They have to prove their case and they didn’t come close.”
As a mother, Taylor said she understood the anguish of the victim’s family. She, too, found Dufresne’s behavior reprehensible, referring to the admissions of sex in St. Charles Parish. “She betrayed a very basic public trust as a school teacher,” the judge said of Dufresne.
That violation caused public outrage. But the court, Taylor said, cannot be swayed by the emotion of the case and must rule based on the law.
Blah blah blah. They can dress it up any way that they want, but it sounds like there was a lot blaming the victim going on here. Despite the claims that the boy was not on trial, reading Michelle Hunter’s tweets, it’s clear that she made a lot of her judgment based on how he reacted. It all comes down to the boy clearly enjoyed the sex, and suffered no harm for it, so what’s the big deal? Which is exactly how we, as a society, tend to view these types of situation. I said in the very first post I made about this case, there are massive double-standards in how we few male and female sexuality. I said it then: We expect teenage boys to be horny and want sex all the time and to enjoy it, so when an adult women has sex with a teenage boy its seen as a good experience for him. And here we are.
And I’m not totally dismissing the point the Judge and defense attorneys made about the outcome of the crime in one county isn’t supposed to have any bearing on the status of the crime in this other county, and the claims that the Jefferson Parish police didn’t do a full investigation (and that itself could be considered further evidence that this wasn’t taken a seriously as it should have been, due to the gender of the victim), but that feels like a technicality to me. A loophole to let this woman off the hook.
But, hey, I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, so what the eff do I know?
Rachel Respess is still due in court next month. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that case just gets dropped now. Remember, she was never charged with having sex with the boy, just with allowing Dufresne and the boy to have sex in her apartment, but since Dufresne has now been found not guilty, what could Respess be convicted of? Everyone knows that they all had sex in that apartment, but since Dufresne wasn’t convicted I’d say they pretty much have to let Respess go now. And there is still the Civil suit that the boy’s family has filed against the teachers and the school district. This was brought up several times by the defense to undermine the boy’s credibility. So I wouldn’t count on that moving forward much.
As for what happens next with Shelley Dufresne? Well, that is the big question, isn’t it.
She was seen smiling as she left the court today. But, hopefully, she learned her lesson after the last time she celebrated a little too enthusiastically, which turned off many public observers. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up giving a public interview at some point in the future. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if she, or Respess, ended up writing a book, or selling her story to TV. I’m sure the Lifetime Movie Chanel could whip up a “Based On A True Story” film pretty quickly. Especially Respess, who is single and has no family. Even if she hasn’t lost her teaching license yet, there’s no way she’ll ever get hired by another school. So she may try to make a buck off of this. I’m still unsure about Shelley Dufresne’s martial status. Reports say she hugged “relatives” in the court. I don’t know if that includes her husband, Wes Dufresne, with whom she has three young children? There’s been no reports of a divorce, I’m sure that would have been mentioned by now, but have they committed to staying together? I can’t imagine having everyone that you know knowing that your wife cheated on you with a teenage boy. If he leaves her, and takes the kids with him, that would be more of a motive for her to do whatever she can to make money. But this is all just random speculation on my part.
I’ve still got my google alerts set so, whatever happens, I’ll be sure to update…