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Ex-Bengal cheerleader's libel lawsuit trial starts

Ex-Bengal cheerleader's libel lawsuit trial starts

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) A former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader who had sex with her underage student told him she fell in love the first time he walked into the classroom where she was teaching freshman English, according to text messages read in court Tuesday.

New details about Sarah Jones' relationship with the teen came out in a northern Kentucky courtroom during the first day of the trial stemming from her defamation lawsuit against a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based gossip website and its owner.

Jones is asking a jury to award her $11 million for lewd posts made about her on thedirty.com, saying they caused her severe mental and emotional distress and weren't true. The posts in question were unrelated to her relationship with the student and were made before any accusations about it surfaced.

Her attorney, Eric Deters, is arguing that the jury should award her damages for the time between when the posts were made in 2009 and February 2011, when Jones admitted in her criminal trial to beginning a relationship with the former student, who was 17 at the time.

But attorneys for thedirty.com told jurors that text messages between Jones and the student indicate the relationship began earlier.

``I fell in love with you a long time ago,'' Jones texted to the teen in November 2011. ``I knew when I saw you we'd be together, freshman year. It's weird because you were like, 14, and I was like, 22 ... It was love at first sight.''

Alex Ward, one of the attorneys for thedirty.com and its owner, Hooman Karamian, told jurors in opening statements that the text messages prove that Jones is sexually immoral and, therefore, the posts about her are not defamatory.

Jones, who is now 27, took the stand and testified that she didn't fall in love with the teen when he was 14, and only told him that because he can be insecure and she was trying to reassure him. The former teacher pleaded guilty to charges that she had sex with the teen but avoided jail time. The two are still in a relationship.

Jones is suing Karamian, who goes by the name Nik Richie and lives in Orange County, Calif., over two posts in October and December of 2011.

In the first, Jones is pictured smiling for the camera with a former kicker for the Bengals with a caption that says she had sex with every single member of the team.

The second showed her in a bikini from one of the Bengals calendars, claimed that her ex-husband contracted chlamydia and gonorrhea after cheating on her with more than 50 women, and that he likely gave it to her.

Richie said in an interview last week that the comments came from someone who knew Jones and had access to photos she posted on Facebook. He said the only thing he wrote about Jones was in the second post, saying, ``Why are all high school teachers freaks in the sacks?''

Jones began crying during her testimony Tuesday, saying that she repeatedly begged Richie to take the posts down before resorting to a lawsuit. She said he and his fans - known as the Dirty Army - continue to post negative comments about her.

``I just want him to leave me alone,'' she said through tears. ``I don't want to be posted on his website anymore.''

She said the posts made her sick to her stomach and depressed, caused her to lose 10 pounds and made her job as a teacher uncomfortable.

Richie's attorneys told jurors that Jones was a convicted felon and admitted liar who was just trying to get a big check over the posts.

They pointed to more text messages between Jones and the teen. In them, she said she wanted to buy a house with pink shutters, a pink swimming pool and a bowling alley in the basement with pink bowling balls. She tells the teen that she'd buy him a white Mercedes.

``This is a money grab,'' Ward told jurors. ``She's a convicted felon because she's a teacher who had sex with a student. Point-blank, she used her position of authority to seduce a student, and that's the reason she'll never be a teacher again, not some post on thedirty.''

Deters said Jones was seeking a large financial reward to punish Richie and make sure he can't post anything else about her or anyone else.

``We want you to award, in honesty, as much money as you can stomach,'' he said. ``We're going to ask you to do that to put him out of business.''

Richie has been posting racy photos and biting comments for years on his website, mostly picking apart women's looks.

The photos that Richie posts are sometimes submitted by the women themselves seeking Richie's opinion, but more often they are posted by people who want to gossip about someone else. Many of the comments are harsh, but Richie argues that the people posted to the site are usually there for a reason, such as being unfaithful or promiscuous.

Jones resigned as a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in northern Kentucky and from the Bengals cheer squad in late 2011 after four years with both jobs. Deters said at the time that Jones had done nothing wrong and stepped down because a rumor that she had become involved with a student became too much.

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

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Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

Scott Brooks on how journeyman veterans like Ish Smith can be leaders by example

WASHINGTON -- When identifying leaders from an outside perspective, it is only natural to look at the Washington Wizards and see Bradley Beal and John Wall, their two All-Star guards. Logic would suggest they set the tone for younger, less experienced players, that they are the ones the rookies should look up to.

But Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sees similar value in less-heralded members of his team, the journeyman veterans to whom nothing has been given. Guys like Ish Smith and Gary Payton II have bounced around the league to varying degrees. In Payton's case, that has included extended time in the G-League.

Brooks has been tasked with creating an environment for the Wizards that is conducive to the development of young players and he believes those types of veterans set an important example.

"If you're really good, you have two or three All-Stars on your team," Brooks said. "But the league is made up of guys like Ish. His story can help the younger guys make it and stay in the league. It's what the league is about. He has the grit, the fiber, the substance and the experience to share with all the players who are trying to make it."

Brooks has used similar language to describe Payton II, who was first signed by the team to a 10-day contract last season. He was let go, then returned this past December and then had his contract guaranteed for the rest of the season earlier this month.

"He's fought and he's been cut many times and sometimes those are the guys you want in your program because they have that fiber, that toughness and that anger because they know that it can go away," Brooks said.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard has said on several occasions they want Brooks to install a culture and mindset with their young roster similar to the one he helped build in Oklahoma City. Smith happens to remind Brooks of one of his former players with the Thunder.

"I love guys on a team like Ish. We kind of had that guy with Nick Collison [in OKC], just a winning player on and off the court. Ish is the same way. I look at Ish the same exact way," Brooks said.

Collison averaged a modest 5.9 points in 14 NBA seasons, but was so respected for his leadership role that his jersey number was retired by the Thunder last year. 

There is another person guys like Smith and Payton II remind Brooks of and that is himself. Before he became a coach, he was a 10-year NBA player. And he carved out that career as an undrafted, undersized point guard.

He was constantly fighting for his NBA future on the fringe of rosters and was able to stick around only because of his hard work and toughness.

Though he played with some great teammates like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, Brooks likes to think he left his own mark.

"I always took pride in having a relationship with the best player to the, well, myself; the worst player," he said.

"This game, it's a family and it's fun and it's about relationships; empowering and inspiring one another. You don't have to be a star player to do that. I've had great conversations with Olajuwon. I've had great conversations with players that only play on a 10-day or a year in the league. I took pride in it and I think Ish does the same thing. I think it's pretty important that we all are blessed and honored to be in the league, that now it's your job to leave your situation better than when you started it. We have a couple of guys on our team that can really carry on what we want our team to be about."

Ultimately, though, the Wizards' young players have to put in the necessary work to reach their potential. Brooks can teach them lessons directly and guys like Smith can do so indirectly.

But the players themselves have to understand the message.

"Now it's up to the younger players to listen to it. It's one thing to listen to John and Brad, but there's a great chance you're not going to be as good as John or Brad. There's a chance you're going to be a player like Ish," Brooks said.

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Alex Ovechkin inches closer to 700 career goals

Alex Ovechkin inches closer to 700 career goals

WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin is flying up the NHL leader board. 

Doesn’t matter if you want to specify this season or his career overall, Ovechkin’s hat trick on Thursday night in a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils helped in both cases.

Start with the big names. Ovechkin now has 689 career goals. He is inching closer to the magic 700 mark. Only seven NHL players in history have reached it. Before then he will pass Mario Lemieux (690) – fittingly maybe on Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 3 when the Capitals play the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Then Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694) are up next. These are incredible names, the greatest to ever play the sport. Ovechkin has etched his name into the record books with them all.

“[Lemieux was] one of my idols when I'm growing up,” Ovechkin said. “I get lucky I have a time to play against him, was on the ice with him a couple times. It's huge….They're legends. To be close to those guys, it's pretty impressive.”

Just looking at this season: Ovechkin is now at 31 goals. He needs 19 more in his 32 remaining games to reach 50 for a record-tying ninth time. For a time this season that appeared to be drifting away from Ovechkin. Now? Seems reasonable. Ovechkin will miss the Jan. 27 game against the Montreal Canadiens to serve a suspension for skipping the All-Star game in St. Louis next week. 

Ovechkin has pulled to within five goals of Boston’s David Pastrnak for the NHL lead (36) and is in third place overall. Toronto’s Auston Matthews is second (34). 

“It seems like every week at least that he’s breaking someone’s record,” Capitals teammate John Carlson said. “And they’re not cupcake records, either. I’ve said this before. I don’t think that as a teammate you realize what’s happening. It kind of becomes maybe a little more normal than if you’re in a different job or on a different team even.”

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