Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones performs during during an NFL preseason football game against the Carolina Panthers on August 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo)
COVINGTON, Ky. - Former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleading squad member Sarah Jones has been charged by a northern Kentucky grand jury with first-degree sexual abuse involving a student when she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School.
According to the Kentucky Enquirer, a Kenton County grand jury indicted Jones, 26, on sex abuse charges. She was also indicted on a charge of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts. These charges are felonies that are each punishable by up to five years in prison.
Her mother, Cheryl Jones, the principal at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with physical evidence in her daughter's case. She was placed on administrative leave. Sarah Jones resigned from Dixie Heights High School in November.
Attorney Charles T. Lester Jr. confirmed he was representing Cheryl Jones and her daughter.
"Sarah has maintained her innocence. The indictment of her mother is completely baseless," Lester said in a written statement.
During an arraignment hearing on Monday, Sarah Jones pleaded not guilty to first-degree sexual abuse. She also pleaded not guilty to unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities, a charge often reserved for people who peddle in child pornography over the Internet.
Her mother also appeared in court at her daughter's side to plead not guilty to tampering with physical evidence in the case. Cheryl Jones was suspended from her job as principal at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence after being indicted on Thursday.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Judge Patricia Summe reduced Sarah Jones' $50,000 bond and Cheryl Jones' $30,000 bond to $15,000 each. She required the pair to be placed on electric monitoring as a term of their release.
Summe ordered the daughter and mother to have no contact with the underage victim and his family, despite the fact that the victim's relatives attended the arraignment in support of the Joneses. The two families sat in the same pew in the courtroom's gallery as they waited for the case to be called.
"The families are friends," said Lester.
The Jones' case is set for trial on June 27.
While the prosecutors declined to give specifics on the evidence, it is clear much of it is text messages. Judge Summe even ordered that text messaging on Sarah Jones' and Cheryl Jones' mobile phones be disabled as a term of their release from jail.
Several computers have also been seized as part of the investigation.
The indictment states the alleged sexual relationship with the high school student took place between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. Sarah Jones resigned Nov. 29 as an English teacher from Dixie Heights in Edgewood.
Sarah Jones' amended petition for annulment was filed on March 21. It states she worked as a secretary at Eric Deters Law Office in Independence, but a person who answered the office phone last week said Sarah Jones was not employed at the business.
The Bengals' website lists Sarah Jones as the team captain for its 2011 cheerleading squad. Tryouts for this year have not taken place.
Sarah Jones married Nathan Wilburn on July 16, according to public records, but Sarah Jones moved out of her husband's residence on Aug. 24.
" ... the marriage was not consummated by sexual intercourse," according to the petition for annulment of marriage filed in Kenton Circuit Court.
There have been rumors about Sarah Jones' sexual behavior since 2009. Someone posted on the gossip website TheDirty.com that she had contracted two sexually transmitted diseases from a former boyfriend. The website even reported she had sex with the man in her high school classroom.
Sarah Jones filed a still-pending federal lawsuit against the gossip website and granted numerous interviews to local and national reporters to defend herself. Cheryl Jones was often at her daughter's side during these interviews.
In an August 2010 interview with The Enquirer, Jones said she was using the website posts as a "teachable moment" after her students started looking it up on the Internet and asking questions.
"It was then I decided I had nothing to hide," she said at the time. "There is nothing I need to back down from."
Meanwhile, Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said the club is aware of the case and had no comment.