Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in Sarah Jones trial

Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones

The jury in the defamation trial involving former Ben-Gal Sarah Jones is deadlocked.

The jury continued deliberations on Friday after failing to reach a verdict on Thursday. Just after 1 p.m., the jury announced they were at an impasse, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Jones is suing the Arizona-based web site TheDirty.com along with its owner Nik Ritchie over lewd comments posted about her in 2009, claiming that the comments were false and harmful to her reputation.

During closing arguments, Jones' attorney, Eric Deters, urged the jury to, "Set aside all of the things that occurred during the Dixie Heights scandal and focus on what this website did to her."

Deters was all bare-knuckled confidence and bravado in the courtroom, but following the mistrial he admitted it was a tough case. "I didn't think we could win, but I felt obligated to make the effort."

Deters calls it a minor victory, but for juror like Karen Dotson it was frustrating. Dotson says "We just couldn't come to an agreement on it. I mean it was 9 to 1, the one guy wouldn't give in favor of Sarah."

Juror Debra Spencer says Sarah Jones' credibility was also an issue. "The hang up was everybody couldn't get past the criminal side of her life which really had nothing to do with the case and there was a couple that just couldn't get beyond that she had lied."

Deters also told the panel that they had the opportunity to do something big and fight for Sarah.

"Shut them down, cause them pain, sock it to them," he said.

Meanwhile, Alex Ward, attorney for TheDirty.com, said Jones should not get $11 million.

"She's a good actress, but she's not that good," he said.

Ward said Jones could not prove that she didn't have any sexually transmitted diseases because she didn't know how to tell the truth.

"You can't believe her on her credibility because of all of her lies, so how could you ever be able to decide if she's telling the truth now."

The posts came almost three years before Jones plead guilty in 2012 to having sex with a teenage student while she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School.

Ritchie claims TheDirty.com gets more than 1000 submissions a day, and he says its "not my job to fact check the site."

Ritchie testified that Jones's appearances on national television and at community events made her a public figure. Public figures trying prove defamation have a higher burden than those who aren't in the public eye.

Ritchie says he can't believe the case has gotten this far. "There's a teacher, a former teacher, a former Ben-Gal that slept with her student. She's a convicted felon, and she's asking me for millions of dollars so it's weird. It's surreal."

Attorneys for the website say her relationship with the teen proves she's sexually immoral, and she's to blame for her tarnished reputation.

On Thursday, the court also saw a video of Ritchie's appearance on the Dr. Phil Show, where he gave his personal view on reality blogging.

Ward says both sides will be better prepared when the retrial gets underway in March. "We know what the split was on the jury. We're allowed to talk to the jury so we can find out what was important and what wasn't."

Deters says "Next time we're going to be calling a doctor, next time we're going to be calling a Bengal football player."

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