Parents and professional football fans alike are stunned to learn that Sarah Jones, a high school English teacher and the one-time captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleading squad, is accused of sexually abusing one of her underage students.
Sarah Jones is charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and using electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts, both felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. Her mother, Cheryl Jones, is charged with tampering with evidence, also a felony with a five-year sentence.
The second count against Sarah Jones, using electronic means to engage in sexual acts, probably refers to sexting or to using text messages to arrange for sexual encounters.
If, in fact, the alleged victim supports Jones and refuses to testify, it will be difficult for prosecutors to put either woman in jail.
In a turn of events that some might describe as the ultimate “hot for teacher” moment, Sarah Jones, cheer captain and one-time English teacher at Covington, Kentucky’s Dixie Heights High School, has been accused of sexual misconduct with one of her underage male students.
The 26-year-old Jones had been a high school English teacher by day, Cincinnati Ben-Gal by night. She was the captain of the Cincinnati Bengals’ cheer squad, when she abruptly resigned her post as a schoolteacher. The one-sentence resignation letter cited “personal reasons” for leaving the school.
Soon rumors and accusations of sexual misconduct with a student swarmed, an investigation arose and Jones was indicted for sexual abuse of a minor. She pleaded not guilty on April 2, 2012.
The details surrounding the alleged offense are murky, and because the alleged victim is a minor, court documents have been sealed from the public record. However, the indictment states that the sexual relationship took place between October 1 and December 31 of 2011.
Jones’ mother, Cheryl Jones, has also been indicted for tampering with evidence — presumably to protect her daughter. She has been placed on a leave of absence from her job as a middle school principal.
Both of the Joneses are out on bond and recently asked the court to raise their bond on the condition that they may resume contact with the victim’s family. According to the Joneses, they are extremely close to the victim’s family and not being able to contact them is causing strife for everyone involved.
According to their attorneys, both Sarah and Cheryl Jones have maintained their innocence throughout. The lawyers have also pointed out that the family of the alleged victim supports the Joneses.
At a recent hearing, the Joneses’ lawyer requested an extension of their trial date due to the sheer volume of evidence against Sarah that needs to be reviewed.
Just before Sarah allegedly began this relationship with her student, in July of 2011, Sarah married her husband, but the two apparently separated the next month.
This isn’t Sarah’s first time in a courtroom, either. In 2010 she sued the website TheDirty.com for defamation of character after the site ran a picture of her and claimed that she had sex in her classroom and had sexually transmitted infections. She was awarded $11 million in damages from that lawsuit.
Sarah pleaded guilty on October 8, 2012, to sexual misconduct and custodial interference in place of more serious charges. Judge Patricia Summe granted prosecutors’ recommendation to sentence Jones to five years of diversion but no jail time. The diversion requires Jones to report to a probation officer, undergo drug tests and never apply for a teaching job again. The plea agreement also keeps the “steamy” sext messages from being read in a public trial and Jones will not have to register as a sex offender.
Sarah Jones – The 26-year-old captain of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheer squad — known as the Ben-Gals — who stands accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor. Jones was a high school English teacher who resigned in the wake of the criminal investigation.
Cheryl Jones – Sarah’s mother, who allegedly tampered with evidence to protect her daughter. Cheryl was a middle school principal until the investigation, whereupon she was placed on administrative leave.
Eric Deters – Sarah Jones’ defense attorney is a local radio personality known for his “Bulldog Nation” show and his self-proclaimed reputation as a courtroom bulldog. He has served two suspensions from the practice of law, one in Kentucky and one in Ohio, for ethical lapses including filing frivolous lawsuits, contacting clients who already have representation, and making accusations against judges and colleagues on his radio show. He was also fired from his local AM radio station, WLW 700, for “racially insensitive remarks” made on-air.
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October 8, 2012: Just when it seemed like a trial was inevitable, Sarah Jones accepted a plea deal! In a move that stunned Wild About Trial’s team of lawyers, the former high school English teacher and former head cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual misconduct.
This case really seemed like it was headed for trial. Jones proclaimed her innocence and the alleged victim refused to testify against her. There was no evidence other than a few text messages between teacher and student. From the outside, it looked like the kind of case the defense could win.
There must have been something in those text messages, though, that Jones did not want a jury to see. We don’t know enough to speculate about what is revealed in those messages, but it must have been pretty racy if Jones and her lawyer believed she could be convicted of much more serious sexual assault charges because of them. If any trial junkies have any ideas what those text messages might have looked like, make your suggestions in the comments.
What this ultimately means for Jones in terms of punishment is a probationary sentence. She will not go to jail unless she violates probation by getting into trouble again. She will probably be court ordered to stay away from children for a while, but the crime is not serious enough for her to get on a permanent sex offender registry.
“You know that kid who had sex with his high school teacher about a year ago? I read online today that that kid died, today. He died of high-fiving. He was in a high-fiving accident.”
– Comic Zach Galifinakis in his May 2010 Saturday Night Live monologue.
Cases where an attractive older woman takes advantage of a teenage boy never fail to capture the imagination of the public. If a male teacher was to behave similarly with an underage girl, the public would be demanding blood, but it seems that when the roles are reversed, our fascination never quite gets to that level of outrage.
Not only are the public and the media captivated by these cases, but the justice system seems to favor female offenders as well. While men facing the same charges usually face serious prison time, their female counterparts tend to receive sentences as light as simple probation without jail time. Many do not end up on sex offender registries.
The disparity between how male offenders and female offenders are treated, both by the public and by the justice system, is a perfect example of how justice is not blind. While our laws are meant to apply equally to everyone, the justice system has its biases as well — and one of those, evidently, is that female sexual predators are not as inherently dangerous as male predators are.
As trial approaches, the defense is filing their motions to see which evidence the jury will be allowed to hear. Jones’ lawyer has asked the court to throw out evidence of text messages sent between students, discussing the alleged affair between Jones and her teenage student. The defense is arguing that since the texts are based on rumors and gossip, they are invalid evidence against the cheerleader-educator.
This case bears some remarkable similarities to the Debra LaFave case in 2005. Both LaFave and Jones were attractive young English teachers, both were recently married and both had the support of the alleged victim and his family. In LaFave’s case, the refusal of the alleged victim to testify led to a plea agreement that included probation, sex offender registry and no jail time. Depending on whether the alleged victim in Jones’ case will testify, she may be facing a similar outcome if in fact she committed this crime.