Hyejeong Shin, a 29-year-old woman from South Korea, enrolled as a high school student in New Brunswick, New Jersey because she felt lonely and wanted to return to a safe environment.
Ms. Shin is accused of falsifying a birth certificate to pose as a teenager at New Brunswick High School, but she has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Her lawyers provided a background on Ms. Shin, saying that she had attended a boarding school in Massachusetts when she arrived in America at 16, and had gone on to study political science and Chinese at Rutgers University.
However, her life began to fall apart after she got divorced and fell behind on rent. Despite the fact that she had been studying for a master’s degree and enjoyed meditation and singing, the stressors in her life may have caused her to act out of character, according to her lawyer, Darren Gerber.
Ms. Shin was only able to attend the high school for four days before staff became suspicious and reported her to the authorities.
After the story went viral, concerns about safeguarding issues arose among parents and teachers. Some students even thought that she might be involved in human trafficking.
However, Ms Shin’s lawyers have stated that there was no malice intended and that the case was simply about their client wanting to return to a safe and welcoming environment that she looked back on fondly.
The New Brunswick Police also found no evidence that she intended to cause harm to students or staff.
In an effort to avoid jail time, Ms Shin’s lawyers informed the judge that she planned to apply to a program that diverts first-time offenders from the criminal justice system and allows them to clear their record after a successful period of probation.
Regardless of the outcome, Ms Shin hopes to return to South Korea after the case concludes. Her next court appearance is scheduled for May 15th.