Ex-Bengal cheerleader’s libel lawsuit trial starts
COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader who had sex with her underage student told him she fell in love the first time he walked into the classroom where she was teaching freshman English, according to text messages read in court Tuesday.
New details about Sarah Jones’ relationship with the teen came out in a northern Kentucky courtroom during the first day of the trial stemming from her defamation lawsuit against a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based gossip website and its owner.
Jones is asking a jury to award her $11 million for lewd posts made about her on thedirty.com, saying they caused her severe mental and emotional distress and weren’t true. The posts in question were unrelated to her relationship with the student and were made before any accusations about it surfaced.
Her attorney, Eric Deters, is arguing that the jury should award her damages for the time between when the posts were made in 2009 and February 2011, when Jones admitted in her criminal trial to beginning a relationship with the former student, who was 17 at the time.
But attorneys for thedirty.com told jurors that text messages between Jones and the student indicate the relationship began earlier.
“I fell in love with you a long time ago,” Jones texted to the teen in November 2011. “I knew when I saw you we’d be together, freshman year. It’s weird because you were like, 14, and I was like, 22 … It was love at first sight.”
Alex Ward, one of the attorneys for thedirty.com and its owner, Hooman Karamian, told jurors in opening statements that the text messages prove that Jones is sexually immoral and, therefore, the posts about her are not defamatory.
Jones, who is now 27, took the stand and testified that she didn’t fall in love with the teen when he was 14, and only told him that because he can be insecure and she was trying to reassure him. The former teacher pleaded guilty to charges that she had sex with the teen but avoided jail time. The two are still in a relationship.
Jones is suing Karamian, who goes by the name Nik Richie and lives in Orange County, Calif., over two posts in October and December of 2011.
In the first, Jones is pictured smiling for the camera with a former kicker for the Bengals with a caption that says she had sex with every single member of the team.
The second showed her in a bikini from one of the Bengals calendars, claimed that her ex-husband contracted chlamydia and gonorrhea after cheating on her with more than 50 women, and that he likely gave it to her.
Richie said in an interview last week that the comments came from someone who knew Jones and had access to photos she posted on Facebook. He said the only thing he wrote about Jones was in the second post, saying, “Why are all high school teachers freaks in the sacks?”
Jones began crying during her testimony Tuesday, saying that she repeatedly begged Richie to take the posts down before resorting to a lawsuit. She said he and his fans — known as the Dirty Army — continue to post negative comments about her.
“I just want him to leave me alone,” she said through tears. “I don’t want to be posted on his website anymore.”
She said the posts made her sick to her stomach and depressed, caused her to lose 10 pounds and made her job as a teacher uncomfortable.
Richie’s attorneys told jurors that Jones was a convicted felon and admitted liar who was just trying to get a big check over the posts.
They pointed to more text messages between Jones and the teen. In them, she said she wanted to buy a house with pink shutters, a pink swimming pool and a bowling alley in the basement with pink bowling balls. She tells the teen that she’d buy him a white Mercedes.
“This is a money grab,” Ward told jurors. “She’s a convicted felon because she’s a teacher who had sex with a student. Point-blank, she used her position of authority to seduce a student, and that’s the reason she’ll never be a teacher again, not some post on thedirty.”
Deters said Jones was seeking a large financial reward to punish Richie and make sure he can’t post anything else about her or anyone else.
“We want you to award, in honesty, as much money as you can stomach,” he said. “We’re going to ask you to do that to put him out of business.”
Richie has been posting racy photos and biting comments for years on his website, mostly picking apart women’s looks.
The photos that Richie posts are sometimes submitted by the women themselves seeking Richie’s opinion, but more often they are posted by people who want to gossip about someone else. Many of the comments are harsh, but Richie argues that the people posted to the site are usually there for a reason, such as being unfaithful or promiscuous.
Jones resigned as a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in northern Kentucky and from the Bengals cheer squad in late 2011 after four years with both jobs. Deters said at the time that Jones had done nothing wrong and stepped down because a rumor that she had become involved with a student became too much.
AMANDA LEE MYERS
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.