Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones between routines against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 22, 2006, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo)
COVINGTON, Ky. - Former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones won her defamation lawsuit against the gossip website TheDirty.com on Thursday in federal court, winning an award of $338,000.
jury of eight women and two men took about 10½ hours over two days hour
before delivering the unanimous verdict at the federal courthouse.
appeared to be fighting back tears and could be heard whispering
towards the jury. The lead attorney for Jones, Eric Deters, who was in
another trial when the verdict was announced, tweeted and posted on
Facebook the following: "Today. A wise jury. A fair judge. A brave
woman. Changed America for the better. This is historic. I am honored to
be part of it."
Jones, 28, sued in 2009 after the website published comments alleging she was promiscuous and had sexually transmitted diseases.
the first trial in January, jurors were unable to unanimously agree
whether the posts about Jones having sex with all the Bengals players
and likely having sexually transmitted diseases were substantially
false. The Associated Press reported jurors were deadlocked 8-2 in favor
Jurors did unanimously agree that Nik Richie, owner of
TheDirty.com, did not act with malice when he posted the submissions,
the AP reported. That means jurors would not have awarded Jones any
money had they all been able to agree that the posts were substantially
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
Bertelsman found that Richie lost protection
from the decency act because he commented on posts about her alleged
His defense was that his comments were satire.
TheDirty.com attorney David Gingras told jurors that no reasonable
person would think Jones slept with the whole team.
trial was unrelated to Jones' sexual relationship with a student when
she taught at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood.
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.
her plea in the criminal case, Jones walked out of the courtroom at the
end of that case holding hands with the student, Cody York. In June,
Jones and York, now 18, announced on social media sites that they were
engaged to be married.
Hannah also writes for The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett property