Ex-Ben-Gal, former NKY teacher avoids jail with plea deal

Joneses charged with misdemeanors

COVINGTON, Ky. - The ex-Ben-Gal cheerleader and former Northern Kentucky educator accused of having sex with one of her students will neither go to jail nor register as a sex offender after she entered into a plea deal in court Monday morning.

Sarah Jones, 26, appeared in front of Kenton County Judge Patricia Summe Monday and pleaded guilty to sex abuse. Sarah was accused of allegedly having sex with a 17-year-old student while she worked as an English teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Northern Kentucky.

In exchange for Sarah's guilty plea, the prosecution dropped the charge to sexual misconduct. Also, the charge of unlawful use of electronic means was changed to custodial interference.

"Sarah now is not going to have a felony hanging over her head," her attorney Eric Deters said.  "She can go on with her life."

"The commonwealth is very pleased with this result," Special Prosecutor Sara Farmer said.  "We feel it is a just and fair result on a case everyone has worked hard on, and we reached our goals today."

During the hearing, Sarah stood in front of Judge Summe and admitted to having a romantic relationship with the victim, which included a "sexual relationship and sexual intercourse."

Sarah will serve a total of five years probation, and the misdemeanor sexual misconduct charge will stay on her record permanently. She is not required to serve any jail time. As part of the deal, the text messages in case will be sealed. Jones also agreed to never apply for another teaching position.

Jones' mother, Cheryl Jones, who was charged with tampering with evidence charges related to her daughter's case, also accepted a plea deal Monday.

Cheryl pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence and in exchange, the prosecution dropped the attempted tampering with physical evidence charge, which was a misdemeanor. In court, Cheryl admitted she sent a text message to the alleged victim that said "get rid of the phone."

Cheryl has been sentenced to two years of conditional discharge and will have to pay court costs.

Sarah walked out of the courtroom Monday hand in hand with the victim, who is now 18. Neither Sarah nor the victim would comment about the plea deal or their relationship. Deters also declined to comment on their relationship.

"There's absolutely nothing prohibiting [the victim] and Sarah from being together," Deters said.  "He's 18 now."

The prosecution told 9 News they were happy with the agreement, saying they were having difficulty with the case because of the victim's stance. They said the victim and his family weren't cooperating with the prosecution, and instead were supporting the Joneses.

Deters told 9 News Sarah has no interest to return to the Ben-Gals. He says she's now a legal secretary in his office, and law school might be in her future.

Deters also says since Cheryl was only charged with a misdemeanor, she will still receive full retirement benefits from the Kenton County school system.

The mother and daughter have been fighting the charges against them for months. Last week, Judge Summe denied their motion to suppress text messages between Sarah and the alleged victim from evidence in the trial. Prosecutors previously referred to the text messages as "steamy."

The case was scheduled to go to trial Wednesday.

Stay with 9 News and WCPO.com for more information as it becomes available.

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