COVINGTON, Ky. - Judging from their public animosity toward each other, both sides will come out swinging when former Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones' defamation lawsuit against TheDirty.com goes back to federal court in Covington for a retrial on Monday.
Nik Richie, owner of the website and Dirty World Entertainment Recordings, has been trashing Jones, her attorney and even Jones' teenage fiancé on his website and on social media.
Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, called Richie a "scuzzball" in a nationally televised interview with Geraldo Rivera on FOX News after the first trial and said, "We're going to finish him off at the retrial."
"Sarah, I will never pay you any money. I can promise you that.- nik" reads a post on TheDirty.com.
Richie recently tweeted:
"Re-trail (sic) with sexual deviant child predator Sarah Jones starts July 8, 2013. A new jury will decide if I should cut her a check for $11 million."
Richie taunted Deters on his website after the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended Deters for 60 days in May because of misconduct in two civil cases.
"I'm not a legal expert but … 1) First they sue the wrong company. 2) The plaintiff, Sarah Jones, pleads guilty to having sex with a minor. 3) Then a mistrial because she couldn't even get the entire jury to believe her side of the story. 4) Now her lawyer gets suspended for the second time! How has our case not been thrown out yet? I just dont (sic) get it… #CIRCUS?- nik"
Deters can still argue the case because he is challenging the suspension.
Richie even zinged Jones' fiance Cody York, with whom Jones admitted having sex in 2009 when he was a student and she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School.
"Cody marry this chick already, what are you waiting for? Oh, that's right… my money.- nik"
Jones pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in 2012 and Jones acknowledged their engagement a few months ago.
Jones sued over two anonymous 2009 posts on TheDirty.com -- one claiming that she had sex with Bengals players while she was a cheerleader and that she had sexually transmitted diseases -- and the other that Jones had sex with students while she taught at Dixie Heights.
The first trial ended in a hung jury in January when one or two of the 10 jurors didn't agree that she was defamed. Different accounts reported that the jurors voted 9-1 or 8-2 in Jones' favor.
"The hangup everybody couldn't get past was her criminal side of her life, which really had nothing to do with this case," juror Debra Spencer told FOX News. "There was a couple that couldn't get beyond it and that she lied."
There was no disagreement on the second count -- that Richie showed reckless disregard for the truth. Jurors ruled 10-0 for Richie, according to his lead attorney, Alex Ward. That means jurors would not have awarded Jones any money had they all been able to agree that the posts were substantially false.
Richie argued that he shouldn't be held responsible for what others post on his website. Posters are allowed to remain anonymous but must agree to the website's Terms of Service, which include not posting false claims. Richie said TheDirty.com is doing the same thing as Facebook and Twitter do and should be protected by the Communications Decency Act.
But Federal Judge William Bertelsman denied the motion at the first trial and rejected Richie's request to appeal that ruling in April.
Deters disputed Richie's claim and said he's "extremely confident" of winning a retrial.
"The most important point is that TheDirty.com edits, he makes his own comments on it. It's not like Facebook; it's not like Yahoo," Deters said. "This is a guy who dishes dirt. He solicits dirt, and what's worse, he does it (about) local celebrities in your hometown. They do it like on 50 cities across America, and he's just a scuzzball, and the bottom line is he's hurting right now and we're going to finish him off at the retrial."
Deters said he believes he can get the next jury to find that Richie acted with malice when he refused to take down the posts for 10 months after repeated emails from Jones that they were false and harming her reputation.
Deters' witness list includes former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham and Dr. Troy Schmuman of Independence, Ky. According to Deters' disclosure, Graham will appear in a video deposition "to deny the allegations posted by the Defendants," and Schumman will dispute allegations that Jones had sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis.
Richie's attorneys plan to call Jones' former husband, Nathan Wilburn, and Edgewood police Detective Julie Inman.
Jones told Geraldo she "messed up" when she had sex with York when he was in high school but she feels she was wronged by the website.
Geraldo: "Eric tells us there were two jurors that would just not rule in your favor. They felt that you could not be slandered because your character had already been tarnished, besmirched by the fact that you had this affair with a teenager … and had to plead guilty to a crime as a result of that."
Jones: "What people don't
understand is we're suing for a specific amount of time – events that happened way before February 2011. I was (dissed) on that website Oct. 27, 2009, and just because I messed up two, three years down the road doesn't mean that he can be excused … Granted, I messed up and I admit that, but my criminal case was over in October. This is not about what I did."
At the first trial, Deters argued that the posts defamed Jones and called her reputation into question long before her relationship with the student, and that's why she's entitled to damages. He also urged jurors to give her a big financial reward to effectively shut down TheDirty.com.
But Deters said reports that Jones is suing for $11 million are wrong.
"Because she got an uncollectible default judgment for $11 million does not mean she is asking for this at trial," Deters said in a news release last week. "In fact, we specifically asked the jury at her last trial for whatever the jury wanted to give her: $50,000 on up to whatever amount they thought would bankrupt the site, whatever they thought. We specifically told them we were not seeking $11 million as repeatedly reported."
Deters said he would refuse post-trial interviews to media outlets that keep reporting the $11 million figure.
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