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Ex-Bengals cheerleader testifies in libel case

By LISA CORNWELL - Associated Press
    2013-07-09 13:12

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Posts on a gossip website that a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader is suing for defamation were so devastating that she once considered suicide and wants to keep other people from being hurt the same way, she testified Tuesday.

Sarah Jones told jurors in her lawsuit retrial in Covington, Ky., that the posts were false and malicious and that the website operator ``hurts people every day.''

``He has gained financially off of my downfall,'' she said of Nik Richie, operator of thedirty.com website.

Jones is suing Richie and the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based website for damages over two 2009 posts. One alleged she had sex with every Bengals player, and the other said she probably had two sexually transmitted diseases.

The latest trial began Monday after a trial in January resulted in a hung jury.

Jones cried at times Tuesday when saying she had once thought about ways to commit suicide. She also described how hurtful and damaging the posts were to her life.

The posts were unrelated to the former high school teacher's guilty plea last year to charges she had sex with an underage ex-student, and Jones' attorney has stressed that they are only seeking damages up to Feb. 1, 2011. He urged jurors not to consider her actions after that.

Jones, 28, still has a relationship with the student, who is now 18. They have said they plan to marry.

After pleading guilty last year in the criminal case, Jones was allowed to avoid jail time but forbidden from teaching again.

Richie's attorney, David Gingras, questioned her again about lies she acknowledges she told about her relationship with the student. He again asked her about a reality show that she reportedly was considering. Jones denied she has ever considered that.

``It's not even in the realm of possibility,'' she said.

Gingras has said that the case is about Jones' character and that the lies she has acknowledged about her relationship with the ex-student and her felony conviction are relevant to her credibility.

Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, called Richie to the stand later Tuesday. The website operator testified that he had no malice toward Jones and that he apologized to her in an email for any pain she had suffered. But Richie also said that he is not required to fact-check submissions before posting them. He acknowledged that he does screen submissions before posting them, but he said the posts are anonymous.

Ritchie said that while he does not believe Jones slept with every Bengal player - an assertion that his attorney suggests was an exaggerated post no one would believe - he can't say whether the allegation about the sexually transmitted diseases was true or not.

Jones said that while she doesn't hate Richie, she would like to see his website shut down.

``He is hurting so many people,'' she said.

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