Jurors at odds in ex-cheerleader's libel suit

Jurors at odds in ex-cheerleader's libel suit

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) Jurors were ordered to try again after telling a judge Thursday they couldn't reach a verdict on a defamation lawsuit filed by a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader against a gossip website that posted lewd comments about her.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman sent the jury home Thursday evening after several hours of deliberations and ordered them to return Friday morning. If the jurors ultimately can't agree on the lawsuit filed by former cheerleader and high school teacher Sarah Jones, the case would have to be tried again with a different jury.

The lawsuit against Scottsdale, Ariz.-based thedirty.com and its operator, Hooman Karamian, seeks $11 million. The lawsuit cites two 2009 posts on the website that said Jones had sex with every Bengals player and probably had two sexually transmitted diseases.

The posts were unrelated to Jones' subsequent guilty plea to charges that she had sex with an underage former student, though the criminal case was discussed in court this week as attorneys for the website sought to attack her character. Jones says the posts were untrue and caused her severe mental anguish.

Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, said he has a pretty good idea why the jurors can't reach a decision.

``Both parties knew that neither one represented a client that's sympathetic,'' he said.

In closing arguments Thursday, Deters told jurors that they had the chance to send a message with their verdict.

``You can do something big today,'' he told them. ``You can send a message across America: We're going to stop libel and slander on the Internet.''

He added that awarding Jones millions of dollars would effectively shut down thedirty.com.

``Sock it to them,'' he said, adding that the case is about basic humanity for his ``wounded client.''

Deters is arguing that the posts defamed Jones and called her reputation into question long before her relationship with the student, and that's why she's entitled to damages.

Karamian, who goes by the name Nik Richie, testified during the three-day trial that Jones is a public figure and that the posts were written by an anonymous user, not him.

In his closing argument, Alex Ward - one of Richie's attorneys - argued that the first post about Jones having sex with all the Bengals players was a clear exaggeration that no reasonable person would believe, and therefore, didn't amount to defamation. He said the second post, which said that Jones' ex-husband cheated on her with 50 women, had gonorrhea and chlamydia, and likely gave it to Jones, was merely an opinion that also did not amount to defamation.

Even if jurors didn't agree with those arguments, Ward told them that they should not find in Jones' favor because she's a convicted felon, an admitted liar and had sex with a student.

He added that the posts were generally true because Jones has shown that she is ``sexually immoral.''

Jones sat crying during his closing arguments, which included references to lies that Jones admitted to telling to police, her family and her bosses about her relationship with the student. She pleaded guilty in October to having sex with him as part of a plea deal that allowed her to avoid time in jail. The plea deal also forbade Jones from ever being a teacher again.

``This isn't an argument that you should punish her because she lies,'' Ward told jurors. ``It's because you can't believe her.''

The closing arguments came after three days of testimony and evidence that included newly released text messages between Jones and the teen that said she first fell in love with him when he walked into her freshman English classroom.

Jones resigned from Dixie Heights High School and from the Bengals cheer squad in late 2011 after four years in both jobs.

The day after she pleaded guilty in the case, Jones and the teen spoke with NBC's Dateline and said they were in love, still in a relationship and didn't care what anyone thought.

David Gingras, another attorney for Richie, said if Jones wins the defamation case, he will appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and argue that his client's website is protected under the Communications Decency Act. The law provides immunity to website publishers from liability for content that comes from third parties.

He said the case is equivalent to someone suing Facebook's chief executive over a comment that someone else posted.

Gingras has won similar lawsuits over the same issue, including a separate one against Richie filed in Missouri in 2011.

In that case, a woman sued Richie over a post on thedirty.com titled ``Nasty Church Girl'' that said she was ugly and promiscuous. A judge ruled in March that Richie was protected under the Communications Decency Act because the post came from a third party, and the case was dismissed.


Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.