Mistrial in ex-cheerleader's libel lawsuit

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 2:59 pm •  Published: January 25, 2013
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COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Jurors couldn't decide whether two lewd posts about a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader were substantially true or not, leading a federal judge to declare a mistrial Friday in her $11 million defamation lawsuit against a gossip website.

Former cheerleader and high school teacher Sarah Jones, 27, is suing Scottsdale, Ariz.-based thedirty.com and its operator over two anonymously submitted posts that said she had slept with every Bengals player and likely had two sexually transmitted diseases. The posts were unrelated to Jones' relationship with her former 17-year-old student. Jones pleaded guilty in that case in October in a deal that allowed her to avoid jail time but forbade her from ever teaching again. She and the teen are still dating.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman declared the mistrial after jurors failed to reach a verdict over two days of deliberations following the three-day trial in northern Kentucky.

A new trial date, which would mean a whole new jury, could be set during a hearing scheduled for March 1.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Jones proved the posts about her having sex with all the Bengals players and likely having STDs were substantially false. But the closest they came to answering that question was an 8-2 vote in Jones' favor; the verdict had to be unanimous.

Jurors did unanimously agree that thedirty.com's operator, Nik Richie, did not act with malice when he posted the submissions. That means jurors would not have awarded Jones any money had they all been able to agree that the posts were substantially false.

Attorneys for both Jones and Richie said the jury's indecision taught them how they can strengthen their cases.

Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, said he feels confident 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.

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