A former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader pleaded guilty Monday to reduced charges, avoiding a trial later this week on accusations that she had a sexual relationship with a student she taught at a suburban Cincinnati high school.
Sarah Jones, 27, of Independence, Ky., pleaded guilty to reduced charges of sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in prison; and custodial interference, a felony that could carry a sentence of one to five years in prison.
The former teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Crestview Hills, Ky., may not spend any time behind bars. On the custodial interference charge, Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe sentenced Jones to two years, diverted for five years probation. If Jones does not violate probation, she will be able to petition to have the felony expunged from her record.
On the sexual misconduct charge, Jones was sentenced to 12 months, probated for two years.
Jones admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student.
Jones and her victim were seen leaving the courthouse together Monday, but Jones’ lawyer, Eric Deters, would not comment on the nature of the relationship between the two.
Jones had been charged with first-degree sexual abuse and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities. The crimes are felonies each punishable with up to five years in prison.
Authorities accused Jones of using her position of authority as a teacher in 2011 to coerce a student into engaging in a sexual relationship and sending him inappropriate text messages. She resigned in November from Dixie Heights, where she taught freshman English for about five years.
Sarah Jones’ mother, Cheryl Jones, 56, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted tampering with physical evidence and was sentenced to 12 months, diverted for two years if she does not violate the conditions of the sentence. At the time, Cheryl Jones was principal at Twenhofel Middle School in Independence. She has since retired.
Cheryl Jones admitted to sending the victim a text message telling him to get rid of his phone.
The plea agreements come two weeks after Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe denied Sarah Jones’ motion to suppress evidence involving text messages between her and the student. Summe wrote that the judge who authorized the warrant for the text messages was “neutral and detached.”
Deters suggested in a suppression hearing Sept. 21 that the judge shouldn’t have authorized the warrant that detectives wanted to use to show a relationship between Jones and the student. Deters argued that the judge knew the student, which was a conflict of interest when he signed the warrant.
Sarah Jones still has a pending civil lawsuit against the gossip website TheDirty.com after it posted comments about her sexual behavior in 2009. Sarah Jones granted numerous interviews to local and national reporters to defend herself against the allegations on the website. Cheryl Jones was often at her daughter’s side during these interviews.
In an August 2010 interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sarah Jones said she was using the website posts as a “teachable moment” after her students started looking it up on the Internet and asking questions.
“It was then I decided I had nothing to hide,” she said at the time. “There is nothing I need to back down from.”