COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals pleaded guilty Monday to having sex with a 17-year-old student while she was a high school teacher, 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 at a northern Kentucky high school when the boy was 17. She said 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. The diversion requires Jones to report to a probation officer, undergo drug tests and never apply for a teaching job again.
In admitting to her relationship with the teen, Jones also avoids a potentially embarrassing trial that would have included transcripts of the text messages she sent to him.
Prosecutors said they were willing to make the deal because the teen, now 18, and his family were uncooperative with them and took Jones' side.
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 out of the trial.
"They're embarrassing," Deters told reporters after the hearing. "They were steamy."
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 had sent the teen a text message telling him to get rid of his phone. She also avoided jail time.