Sarah Jones, the former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader who had a sexual relationship with an underage student who later became her fiance, lost her defamation lawsuit against Nik Richie and his gossip website TheDirty.com earlier this week. A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned a verdict from last year that had awarded Jones $338,000.
According to Amber Hunt of The Cincinnati Enquirer, the court ruled that Richie was protected under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, also known as CDA. The statute protects website operators from being held accountable for content posted by third parties. The lawsuit Jones filed had to do with an anonymous user who posted on TheDirty.com that she had sex with half the Bengals team and had contracted sexually transmitted diseases.
Hunt noted that Jones’ case against Richie had been watched closely by First Amendment lawyers and major corporations like Google, eBay, Facebook and Amazon — all of which filed a joint brief in support of Richie. On Monday, Richie posted a photo of the court filing on his Instagram page with the following caption.
“Just incase you are wondering, I saved the internet today. Your freedom continues. Congress enacted 230 c1 to preserve a free internet, and that enactment resolves this case. Bottom line: always fight for what you believe. #Freedom.”
Jones will now look to take the case to Supreme Court.
“It’s disappointing,” her lawyer Chris Roach said. “We were really hoping it would be Nik Richie who would be (taking the case) to the Supreme Court, but we’ll be doing it instead.”
Roach claims that Richie encouraged people to post defamatory content about Jones, making him more than just an innocent bystander.
“(The case is a) green light to do anything that’s technically illegal on the Internet,” Roach said. “It’s letting (Richie) post whatever he wants with immunity.”
As an example, Roach cited a post a few years back where Richie allegedly wrote, “Why are high school teachers freaks in the sack?” and signed his name.
With major companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon backing him, it’s hard to imagine Richie losing in Supreme Court. The case could wind up being incredibly costly for Jones.