A former teammate of Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones believes the charge that Jones had sexual relations with a high school student has distorted the image of what a professional cheerleader is — and even more, just who Jones really is.
Speaking out for the first time, Lindsay Vaughn, a former member of the NFL team's “Ben-Gals” squad, sat down with NBC's Jeff Rossen, to defend her friend.Video: NFL cheerleader indicted: Sex with teen student (on this page)
“Being a Ben-Gal is not just about the cheerleading outfit," a tearful Vaughn told Rossen in the report that aired on TODAY Monday. “I know you may see that, and that's something that is easy to hang onto in the news because it makes good headlines, but (Jones is) a real person.
“We're real people. We have families, we have careers. We represent ourselves in this community.”Video: Fellow NFL cheerleader speaks out about abuse case (on this page)
Jones, 26, captain and a five-year veteran of the Ben-Gals, was indicted last week in Covington, Ky., on charges of first-degree sexual abuse, stemming from allegations she had sex with a 16-year-old football player at Dixie Heights High School, where Jones taught freshman English.
In addition, her mother, Cheryl Jones, a principal at a neighboring middle school, was charged with tampering with evidence in attempting to cover up her daughter's involvement in the case.
While calling the allegations "terribly shocking," Vaughn told Rossen she isn't following the case. “I don't know anything ... I don't want to know, I don't need to know.” But she said the picture of Jones that's being painted in the headlines is very different from the “smart, Christian girl” she knows — a woman active in community projects who traveled to Iraq last year to entertain the troops.
“She doesn't drink — doesn't party — probably totally opposite of what you think of when you think of an NFL glamorous, hot cheerleader.”
Still, this isn't the first time Jones has been the center of publicity about her sex life. In 2009, the website TheDirty.com claimed she had contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Jones won a judgment against the site's founder, and told ABC News at the time about the turmoil she endured in trying to put the rumors to rest among her students.
"To stand in front of 30 15-year-olds and tell them you don't have two STDs and that you are not a slut is the hardest thing you will ever have to do," Jones said at the time.Video: NFL cheerleader sex case: Teen may not testify (on this page)
For her part, Vaughn believes her friend Jones may have begun to unravel after that unwanted publicity. “It spiraled out of control very, very quickly, and I think that that's where her whole life has basically been turned around and changed,” she told Rossen.
Now Jones faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the sexual abuse charge — a charge that the unnamed student and his family deny. Her trial is set to begin June 27.
“I mean, she's 26 years old,” Vaughn said. “I can't imagine as a 26-year-old trying to recover from a situation like this.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints