Ex-Bengals Cheerleader Sues Gossip Website, Founder Over Lewd Posts
(COVINGTON, Ky.) — A former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader and teacher who admitted to sexually abusing one of her former students was back in federal court in Covington, Ky., Monday to face off against a gossip website she alleges defamed her.
Sarah Jones, 27, is suing the Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based website TheDirty.com and its founder Hooman Karamian, who goes by the alias Nik Richie, over a pair of anonymous posts from 2009 that said she had sex with every Bengals player while she was a cheerleader for the team and had two sexually transmitted diseases.
Jones is seeking $11 million in damages, claiming the posts were not true and caused emotional distress.
The first trial in January ended in a hung jury. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky Judge William Bertelsman set a retrial date for July 8.
The posts were unrelated to Jones’ relationship with her former student Cody York, whom she met when she was his ninth grade teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood, Ky. He was 17 when they started having sex.
She pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges in October 2012. She was sentenced to five years probation and can never apply for a teaching position again.
She resigned from both her high school teaching position and from the Bengals cheerleading squad in late 2011.
She and York announced their engagement on her Facebook page in June.
Richie’s attorney, David Gingras, told ABC News that Jones’ allegations that the site harmed her reputation were not in line with her attention-seeking behavior after the posts gained traction on TheDirty.com.
“She went out of her way to draw additional attention to herself,” he said. “That’s typically not what you see people doing when they claim that something was false about them. If you were damaged, you wouldn’t want it repeated.”
Gingras said Jones “Streisand-ed” herself on purpose, referring to what’s come to be known as “the Streisand effect,” a term coined after people became curious about what Barbara Streisand’s home looked like after she sued a photographer for taking aerial shots of it.
While Gingras filed a motion in April that Richie’s website should be protected by the Communications Decency Act, which protects website publishers from legal responsibility for posting content that comes from third parties, the judge ruled it would not apply, he said.
Jones’ attorney, Eric Deters, said he disagrees.
“First off, [Richie is] the editor. He actually admits he decides what gets posted. So nothing is posted without his knowledge of it,” Deters told ABC News’ Cincinatti affiliate WCPO-TV.
“She can claim all she wants that something was said that was false. My client didn’t write any of it. My client simply runs a website where people talk,” Gingras told WCPO-TV. “If Sarah changes the law and has website owners held responsible for other people’s words, there’s no Facebook.”
“We are basically doing what Mark Zuckerberg would do if someone sued him and said, ‘Can you prove if the things someone wrote on their Facebook wall were true?'” he said. “That’s the position we were put in.”
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