Former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones
COVINGTON, Ky. (Cincinnati.com) -- Ex-Dixie Heights High School teacher and
one-time Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader Sarah Jones took the stand
Monday in the retrial of her potentially groundbreaking defamation
lawsuit against online gossip website TheDirty.com.
Photo Gallery: Ex-cheerleader Sarah Jones pictures
28-year-old shed a few tears as she talked about being humiliated after
the website published comments in 2009 alleging she was promiscuous and
had sexually transmitted diseases.
is cyber-bullying," the 28-year-old Jones said of the website's posts
about her. "I don't believe what the website does is fair. I don't
believe it is right."
Gingras, attorney for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website, fired back
that Jones has no reputation to defame after she admitted to a sexual
relationship with a 17-year-old student she taught.
must judge Sarah's reputation based on her actions," Gingras said.
"Felony convictions are relevant to a person's credibility."
He acknowledged that his client "can be mean, but mean is not a crime."
Jones pleaded guilty in October 2012 in state court to misdemeanor sexual
misconduct and felony custodial interference and was sentenced to two
years in prison. Her plea agreement allows her to avoid any confinement
as long as she follows the terms of her probation for five years.
walked out of the courtroom at the end of that case holding hands with
the student, Cody York. Jones resigned from the high school the
following November and is banned from seeking another teaching job as
part of her plea agreement.
and York, now 18, announced on social media sites in June that they were engaged to be married. They haven't publicly said if they have
picked a wedding date.
York wasn't seen in the courtroom Monday but Jones' mother, Cheryl Jones, attended the first day of trial.
Jones, who was principal at Twenhofel Middle School at the time of her
daughter's crimes, admitted to sending York a text message telling him
to get rid of his phone. Prosecutors said the mother sent the text from
her Kenton County School District-issued mobile phone as police were
executing a search warrant on the mother's home.
Cheryl Jones pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted tampering with
physical evidence. She was sentenced to 12 months, but she also will not
have to serve jail time if she does not commit any additional crimes
for two years.
First Amendment and
technology experts began closely watching Jones' defamation case after
U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman ruled the website was not
shielded from liability by the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The
decision, issued in January 2012, was seen as a departure from numerous
other rulings protecting website operators who use material provided to
them, known as third-party content.
The first trial ended with a hung jury after three days of deliberations in January.
retrial will continue today with Jones retaking the stand. Jones'
attorney, Eric Deters, is also expected to call website operator Nik
Richie to testify.
difference in the retrial is that Gingras is expected to call Jones'
ex-husband, Nathan Wilburn, to the stand. Wilburn did not testify at the
Wilburn may create a challenge to authorities because a state judge has
ordered him to stay 500 feet away from Jones. She got a protective
order in October 2012 after Wilburn had made numerous threatening
remarks to her stemming from her relationship with York. Jones and
Wilburn married July 16, 2011. Jones moved out of the couple's home on
Aug. 24 that year, according to court records. They filed for an
annulment March 21, 2012, and Jones was indicted on sex abuse charges
eight days later. The marriage was dissolved June 13, 2012.
Bertelsman told the jury of eight women and two men he expects to give them the case Wednesday.