COVINGTON, Ky. - A former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals pleaded guilty Monday to having sex with a 17-year-old student while she was a teacher at northern Kentucky high school, a move that will allow her to avoid time in jail.
In a tearful admission in Kenton County Circuit Court in Covington, Ky., 27-year-old Sarah Jones pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and custodial interference in place of more serious charges as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
"I began a romantic relationship while he was a student and I was in a position of authority," Jones said, her voice cracking as her family members wiped their own tears.
Jones said the relationship began in February 2011 when the boy was 17, saying that the two had sex, that she sent him sexually explicit text messages and lied about the relationship to police.
In accepting the plea agreement, Judge Patricia Summe granted prosecutors' recommendation to sentence Jones to five years of diversion but no jail time, and she won't have to register as a sex offender. The diversion requires Jones to report to a probation officer, and undergo drug tests.
Prosecutors said they were willing to make the deal because the teen, now 18, and his family were uncooperative with them and on Jones' side.
"We feel that it is a just and it is a fair result," prosecutor Sara Farmer said. "It's certainly difficult when a victim and his family don't cooperate by not providing information but it makes our case a lot harder when they're actually proactive for a defendant, and in this case, the family was more than supportive of the Jones. They were proactive for them."
Jones had taught at Dixie Heights High School before resigning last November. She was indicted in March, and her trial had been set to start Wednesday.
Part of the reason defense attorney Eric Deters said Jones was willing to plead guilty was because Summe had denied his request to keep the text messages that she sent to the teen out of the trial.
"They're embarrassing," Deters told reporters after the hearing. "They were steamy."
He also said that now that the teen is 18 years old, he and Jones "are free to be together" and pointed out that they left the courtroom together.
Deters declined to discuss details of their current relationship, saying that they likely would do that themselves at some point in the future.
He said that Jones will not try out to be a Bengals cheerleader in the future, and that for now, she's working as a legal assistant in his office.
Jones has expressed interest in becoming a lawyer and is studying to take the Law School Admission Test, he said.
Jones' mother, former school principal Cheryl Armstrong Jones, also pleaded guilty Monday, to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with evidence. She admitted to the judge that she sent the teen a text message telling him to get rid of his phone and also avoided jail time.