COVINGTON, Ky. – from www.wptv.com – A Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader is facing criminal charges for allegedly having sex with a minor.
A Kenton County grand jury indicted Sarah Jones Thursday of first degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities. The sexual abuse charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.
Cheryl Jones, Sarah’s mother, was indicted for tampering with evidence. Cheryl is the principal at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence.
Both women were taken into custody Thursday afternoon and booked into the Kenton County Jail.
Sara Farmer, a special prosecutor from Jefferson County was assigned to the case because of a conflict of interest. The conflict of interest was because Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders was sued multiple times by Eric Deters, the lawyer who previously represented Jones.
Jones resigned from her teaching position at Dixie Heights High in November 2011. She is currently the team captain of the Ben-Gals cheerleading squad.
Lawyers for both Sarah and Cheryl Jones said Thursday afternoon the mother and daughter will be pleading not guilty. Sarah’s lawyers say their client is maintaining her innocence and call the indictment of Cheryl Jones “completely baseless.”
“Cheryl Jones did not tamper with evidence,” said attorney Charles T. Lester.
Bengals spokesperson Jack Brennan said the team has no comment at this time.
Dixie Heights High School is referring all comments to the Kenton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Terri Cox-Cruey. She says officials are aware of the situation and do not have a comment at this time other than to say Jones resigned from her teaching position. The school district is not conducting their own investigation, but will closely monitor any developments in the case.
Parents in the Crestview Hills area near Dixie Heights High School were upset by the news.
“I think it’s appalling that you send your kid to school with some teachers looking at them in an educational format and some of them are looking at them differently,” said parent Brenda Woodcock.
Sheila Elstro, whose three children will soon be attending Twenhofel Middle School, says she’s worried.
“It’s definitely scary and concerning,” said Elstro.
In 2009, Sarah Jones sued TheDirty.com after a photo of her and former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham appeared on the gossip website. The photo was posted anonymously along with hundreds of comments she said were untrue and hurtful.
Jones emailed the site, pleading for them to take down the picture and the comments.
Six weeks later, another photo with more lurid comments surfaced. In one comment, a poster claimed that Jones had had sex in her classroom.
Jones sought to dispel gossip among her students who had seen false assertions made on the site.
“To stand in front of thirty 15 year-olds and tell them you don’t have two STDs and that you are not a slut is the hardest thing you will ever have to do,” she told ABC News.
Jones continued to request that the posts be removed. Her emails went to TheDirty.com founder Nik Richie, a self-proclaimed “rock star of the Internet generation” and the man behind the dirt.
Richie told “20/20” he wasn’t the one posting the comments — it was his anonymous tipsters, whom he dubbed “The Dirty Army.” He just incites more conversation, he said at the time, by adding his opinion to shocking comments.
Jones sued Richie for defamation of character in 2010. A federal judge in Kentucky awarded Jones an $11 million default judgment for defamation, but litigation continues in the case.
U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman set a June 4 trial date in Covington, Ky. for Jones’ defamation and invasion of privacy suit against Richie and the website.
Preliminary court hearings in Kenton County court for Sarah and Cheryl Jones are expected to start as early as next week.