LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada woman has lost her bid in U.S. court to force international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to pay millions more than the $375,000 in cash she received after claiming that he raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in Las Vegas returned the case from court on Friday to punish the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, for ‘bad faith conduct’ and the use of leaked and stolen documents detailing the discussions lawyer-client between Ronaldo and his lawyers. Dorsey said it tainted the case beyond redemption.
Dorsey said in his 42-page order that the outright dismissal of a case without an opportunity to refile it is a harsh penalty, but said Ronaldo was wronged by Stovall’s conduct.
“I find that the obtaining and continued use of these documents was in bad faith, and simply disqualifying Stovall will not undo the harm done to Ronaldo because the misappropriated documents and their confidential contents were woven into the fabric. even claims of (plaintiff Kathryn) Mayorga,” the judgment said. “Severe penalties are deserved.”
Stovall did not immediately respond to phone and email messages on Saturday. Text messages to partner Larissa Drohobyczer went unanswered. They could appeal the decision to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
In a statement referring to Mayorga only as the ‘plaintiff’, Ronaldo’s Las Vegas lawyer Peter Christiansen said Cristiano’s legal team welcomed the decision.
“We argued that the action was brought in bad faith,” the statement said. “The outright dismissal of the plaintiff’s case should restore to all those following this case renewed confidence in this country’s judicial process while deterring those who seek to undermine it.”
The Associated Press does not usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall and Drohobyczer to make his name public.
Dorsey had signaled earlier this year that she was ready to end the case after Stovall missed a procedural deadline in its offer of more than $25 million in damages based on allegations that Ronaldo or his associates breached a 2010 confidentiality agreement by leaving reports about it. appear in European publications in 2017.
Mayorga’s civil lawsuit — filed in 2018 in state court and transferred in 2019 to federal court — alleged that Ronaldo or his associates breached the confidentiality agreement before German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article headlined ” Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from “Football Leaks whistleblower portal.
Ronaldo’s legal team blamed reports of electronic data leaks of documents hacked by law firms and other entities in Europe and put up for sale. Christiansen also alleged that the information was altered or fabricated.
Christiansen and attorney Kendelee Works in Las Vegas have fought successfully since the case emerged in 2018 to prevent the pact from being disclosed.
Mayorga is a former model and teacher who lives in the Las Vegas area. Her lawsuit says she met Ronaldo at a nightclub and went with him and others to his hotel suite, where she alleged he assaulted her in a bedroom. She was 25 at the time. He was 24 years old.
Ronaldo’s legal team do not dispute that Ronaldo met Mayorga and they had sex in June 2009, but have argued that it was consensual and not rape.
Mayorga turned himself in to Las Vegas police at the time, but the investigation was dropped because Mayorga did not identify his alleged attacker by name or say where the incident took place, said the police and prosecutors.
Ronaldo, now 37, is one of the highest paid and most recognizable sports stars in the world. He plays for English Premier League club Manchester United and captained the national team of his home country Portugal. He has spent several years in recent years playing in Italy for Turin-based club Juventus.
Las Vegas police reopened their rape investigation after Mayorga filed the lawsuit, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson decided in 2019 not to pursue criminal charges.
Wolfson, the prosecutor-elect in Las Vegas, said too much time had passed and the evidence had not shown Mayorga’s charge could be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Stovall argued that Mayorga did not break the silence rule. His lawsuit sought to overturn it, accusing Ronaldo and the reputation protection ‘fixers’ of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud. In documents filed last year, Stovall valued damages at $25 million plus attorneys’ fees.
The lawyer argued that Mayorga had learning disabilities as a child and had been under such pressure from Ronaldo’s lawyers and representatives that she was in no condition to consent to drop her criminal complaint and to accept the $375,000 in August 2010.
Dorsey followed the recommendations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts, who handled preliminary and procedural rulings in the case, that it be dismissed for bad faith, “inappropriate conduct” by Stovall and reliance on leaked and stolen confidential documents.
“There is no possible way for this case to proceed if the court cannot say what arguments and testimony are based on these privileged documents,” Albregts said in an October 2021 report to Dorsey.
Stovall “acted in bad faith in requesting, receiving and using the Football Leaks documents to pursue Mayorga’s case,” Albregts wrote. He blamed Stovall for ‘bold’, ‘saucy’ and ‘abusive’ attempts to publicize the confidentiality agreement through legal maneuverings and the court record and recommended Dorsey reject Stovall’s claim that Mayorga n didn’t have the mental capacity to sign the 2010 deal.
The 9th Circuit decided earlier this year that it would be up to Dorsey to decide that question.
It was not immediately clear from Dorsey’s decision whether the public could still view the Las Vegas police report written about Ronaldo after Mayorga filed his complaint in 2018.
Albregts said in March that denying the New York Times access to what the police had collected “would almost certainly raise the ‘specter of government censorship’.” He recommended that Dorsey transfer the newspaper’s open documents request to a state court.
A protective order that Dorsey imposed to prevent the publication of the 2010 agreement does not apply to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Albregts found, and “does not prevent LVMPD from releasing its file of criminal investigation”.
Lawyer Margaret McLetchie, representing the newspaper, did not immediately respond to a message about the case on Saturday.