The Cincinanti Bengals have the dubious honor of having the most players arrested since 2000. But today, it’s one of the Ben-gals, the team’s cheerleading squad, who’s in trouble. On Thursday, the cheerleading squad’s captain and former high school teacher was arrested and indicted on accusations that she had a sexual relationship with a minor. The irony in all of this? It was just a few years ago when Jones sued the reality-gossip website TheDirty.com for publishing a post, titled “The Dirty Bengals Cheerleader.” In the post, which has since been deleted, the commenter posted a picture of Jones and a Bengals player and claimed Jones had slept with the entire Bengals football team and had STDs. This led website owner, Nik Richie, to comment, “Why are all high school teachers freaks in the sack?”
For those of you unfamiliar with TheDirty.com, people essentially send in photos of others along with some scandalous information about the person. While Richie owns the site, he simply post the information sent in by tipsters, known as The Dirty Army, usually along with a short quip of his own.
After Richie refused to take down the post, Jones sued Richie and TheDirty.com for defamation and libel, alleging that her high school students had seen the post, commented on it, and ruined her reputation. Jones told 20/20, “I think I hit rock bottom when a student said she would never learn from a slut like me.” Now, it seems her reputation is the least of her worries. Her case against TheDirty.com is slated to go to trial in June, but first, she will have to answer criminal charges of “first degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities.” Both charges are felonies that carry a maximum of five years in prison. Meanwhile, at TheDirty.com, Nik Richie is reveling in the news, posting several stories today about Jones’s troubles.
Jones actually won an $11-million default judgment against the website in 2010. Unfortunately for Jones, her lawyer sued the wrong website– filing suit against TheDirt.com instead of TheDirty.com. After her lawyer refilled the suit against the correct website, TheDirty.com argued that Communications Decency Act should shield the site from the suit. U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman, however, ruled that TheDirty.com and Richie were not shielded by the CDA, allowing the case to move forward. The Communications Decency Act shields operators of Internet services from being legally liable for the words of third parties who use their services. Although, there is disagreement as to whether the CDA should protect websites like TheDirty.com, many saw the ruling as a departure from other cases that allowed the CDA to protect website operators, who like Richie, simply display defamatory third-party content. In fact, in a recent case against TheDirty.com, the court held that TheDirty.com was indeed qualified for CDA immunity.
Given Jones’s newest legal troubles, it is uncertain what will become of her lawsuit. It certainly will not help her case against TheDirty.com if she is ultimately convicted. Although Richie hasn’t gloated with an, “I told you so,” you can bet he will should Jones be found guilty.