A federal magistrate judge in Nevada has sided with Cristiano Ronaldo’s lawyers against a woman who sued for more than the 375,000 dollars (£272,000) in hush money she received in 2010 after saying the footballer raped her in Las Vegas.
In a scathing recommendation to the judge hearing the case, Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts blamed Kathryn Mayorga’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, for inappropriately basing the civil damages lawsuit on leaked and stolen documents shown to be privileged communications between Ronaldo and his lawyers.
“Dismissing Mayorga’s case for the inappropriate conduct of her attorney is a harsh result,” the magistrate wrote in his 23-page report to US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey. “But it is, unfortunately, the only appropriate sanction to ensure the integrity of the judicial process.”
“Stovall has acted in bad faith to his client’s — and his profession’s — detriment,” Mr Albregts decided.
Ronaldo’s attorney in Las Vegas, Peter Christiansen, issued a statement saying the Manchester United star’s legal team was “pleased with the court’s detailed review … and its willingness to justly apply the law to the facts and recommend dismissal of the civil case against Mr Ronaldo”.
Mr Albregts noted the court did not find that Ronaldo committed a crime and found no evidence his attorneys and representatives “intimidated Mayorga or impeded law enforcement” when Ms Mayorga dropped criminal charges and finalised the 375,000 dollar confidential settlement in August 2010.
Ms Mayorga, 37, is a former teacher and model who lives in the Las Vegas area. She said in her lawsuit filed first in state court and moved to federal court that Ronaldo or his associates violated the confidentiality agreement by allowing reports about it to appear in European publications in 2017.
She seeks to collect at least 200,000 dollars more from Ronaldo.
She met Ronaldo at a nightclub in June 2009 and went with him and other people to his hotel suite, where she said he assaulted her in a bedroom, according to the lawsuit. She was 25 at the time while he was 24.
Ronaldo’s attorneys have acknowledged the football star and Mayorga had sex, but said it consensual and not rape.
Ms Mayorga went to Las Vegas police but the investigation was dropped at the time because she neither identified her alleged attacker by name nor said where the incident took place, Steve Wolfson, the elected prosecutor in Las Vegas, said in 2019.
Mr Wolfson decided not to file criminal charges based on a new investigation by Las Vegas police in 2018 because he said too much time had passed and evidence failed to show that Ms Mayorga’s accusation could be proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
Word of the financial settlement became public after the German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article in 2017 titled “Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from “whistleblower portal Football Leaks”.
“The article makes it clear that these documents included privileged communications … between Ronaldo’s European and US attorneys about the settlement,” Mr Albregts wrote.
Mr Stovall “acted in bad faith by asking for, receiving, and using the Football Leaks documents to prosecute Mayorga’s case,” the magistrate judge found.
“Although Stovall never received — or even sought — an ethics opinion … he had multiple opportunities to recognise the privileged nature of the documents, starting with the 2017 Der Spiegel article, which quotes privileged communications.”
Mr Albregts rejected Mr Stovall’s argument that using the documents was justified because he was not the one who stole them and he could not prove they were stolen.
The attorney’s efforts to make confidential documents public through court filings were “audacious”, “impertinent” and “abusive”, the magistrate said.