Ex-Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones: Website owner set to testify in defamation case
Nik Richie is owner of TheDirty.com
Kevin Osborne, WCPO Digital
6:02 PM, Jul 8, 2013
6:08 PM, Jul 9, 2013
COVINGTON, Ky. - The owner of an Internet gossip site is expected to testify Tuesday in the retrial of a defamation lawsuit filed by an ex-Bengals cheerleader.
Nik Richie, who operates TheDirty.com, is scheduled to testify in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington.
Sarah Jones, 28, of Independence, is suing Richie for two anonymous posts in 2009 that claimed she had sex with various Bengals players and had sexually transmitted diseases. 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 My Space, adding Richie isn't responsible for content posted by users
Further, Richie's attorney has said Jones wasn't harmed by the posts, noting she was made captain of the Bengals cheerleading squad and got a pay raise in her day job as a schoolteacher after the posts were made.
Jones made $100 per game as a cheerleader, and earned about $38,000 annually as a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Crestview Hills.
The first trial against Ritchie and TheDirty.com ended with a hung jury in January.
Nathan Wilburn, Jones' ex-husband, also may testify at the retrial, Richie's attorney said.
Testimony Monday: Jones' Sexual History
On Monday, Jones began her testimony by giving new details about her much-publicized relationship with a high school student when asked to about her sexual history and whether she ever had any sexually transmitted diseases.
Richie's attorney says his client is not guilty of malice for posting the anonymous submissions.
The posts were unrelated to the former high school teacher's 2012 no contest plea to charges she had sex with an underage ex-student.
Under questioning, Jones accused Richie of "cyber-bullying" by refusing to delete the posts from his website, even after emailing him 27 times to tell him they were untrue.
"By putting it up there and keeping it up there after I told him it wasn't true, he is owning it, in my opinion," Jones said.
Jones said she only has had two sexual partners: her now ex-husband, Nathan Wilburn, and her current boyfriend, Cody York.
York was 17 and a student at Dixie Heights High School in Crestview Hills when their sexual relationship began in November 2011. At the time, Jones taught at the school although York was not one of her students at the time.
Jones testified that her family and York's were longtime friends, and she had known York for years.
"I saw him outside of school. In school, I never saw him," she said. "He never thought of me as a teacher."
Instead, Jones and York's friendship grew more intimate as he consoled her about the separation and divorce from Wilburn, Jones said.
Jones and Wilburn had dated since they were teenagers, and the pair married in July 2011. But Jones left Wilburn in late August 2011 and they were divorced a year later.
In her testimony, Jones alleged Wilburn was emotionally and physically abusive toward her. Wilburn forced Jones to sleep on the floor on several occasions and regularly abused alcohol, cocaine and steroids, she added.
"I knew the entire time of our relationship we shouldn't be together. I felt stuck," Jones said. "I was nervous to leave him. He was very threatening."
Once school officials learned of Jones' relationship with York, Jones pleaded guilty in 2012 to sexual misconduct and custodial interference. In a deal with prosecutors, Jones was sentenced to five years of probation but no jail time, and she doesn't have to register as a sex offender.
Nevertheless, Jones said her and York's parents both support their relationship despite the eight-year age difference. Jones is now engaged to York, who will turn 19 in August.
Richie's attorney questioned Jones' credibility, noting she never mentioned having a relationship with York during interviews she did with national media in 2011 about her defamation case.
But Jones countered that she never lied under oath and never had sex with York in Kenton County, where the high school is located.
"I did not lure Cody to have sex with me," Jones testified.
Also, Jones said she has never had gonorrhea and chlamydia, as alleged on the website. She did contract hepatitis A when she was 12, through using an inhaler that was tainted.
When Richie's attorney asked Jones if the ailment qualified as an STD, she replied, "I think there is a huge difference between hepatitis A and gonorrhea and chlamydia."
Jones will continue her testimony Tuesday morning, and the trial is expected to conclude Wednesday.