Ex-Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones thought about suicide after web posts
Website owner: 'It's not my job to fact-check'
Kevin Osborne, WCPO Digital
12:31 PM, Jul 9, 2013
12:59 PM, Jul 9, 2013
COVINGTON - An ex-Bengals cheerleader thought about committing suicide after anonymous comments were posted on the Internet that she had sex with several players, the woman testified Tuesday.
Sarah Jones said the comments posted in 2009 on TheDirty.com upset her deeply and soon began causing problems at her day job as a high school teacher.
"My world fell down when that stuff happened," Jones testified during the second day of her defamation trial against the website and its owner, Nik Richie.
Jones is suing Richie for two anonymous posts on the gossip site in 2009 that he refused to remove despite multiple requests to do so. The posts were untrue and caused Jones mental anguish, her suit alleges.
The website operator's attorney says Richie isn't guilty of malice for posting the anonymous submissions. He compared the website to Facebook or MySpace, adding Richie isn't responsible for content posted by users
Richie testified later Tuesday that he didn't know Jones and couldn't state whether the posts about her were true.
"It's not my job to fact-check," Richie said. "I have terms of service (for users) on the website. I don't want false stuff."
Still, Richie conceded under questioning that the website receives about 1,000 potential submissions each day. Assistants select the top 100-200 for Richie's review, and he decides what items are posted.
After Jones sent a few requests stating the allegations about her were untrue and asking they be removed, Richie eventually told her to submit medical tests proving she didn't have any sexually transmitted diseases.
In March 2010, Jones sent Richie test results indicating she had no STDs. Richie said he never saw the email, but added "it's two curable diseases" that could have been treated by then.
"I have apologized to Sarah in the past," Richie said. "If Sarah went through pain, I don't want that for anybody."
But Richie insisted NFL cheerleaders are public figures and that the public is interested in reading about them.
TheDirty.com gets about 600,000 visitors daily. The website generated $500,000 in revenue last year, and Richie also is paid between $2,500 to $10,000 to make personal appearances at nightclubs, parties and other venues.
Richie testified he makes about $5,500 in salary per month due to the website.
When asked by Jones' attorney whether Richie would like an anonymous user posting that his wife or daughter had STDs, Richie said he wouldn't.
"It's not something I want out there," he said. "It's a private affair – unless you're a public person."
The trial will resume Tuesday afternoon, when Nathan Wilburn -- Jones' ex-husband – may testify.