U.S. appeals court hears arguments over hush-money settlement in 2010 Ronaldo rape case

Ken Ritter and Scott Senner, The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Lawyers for Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday urged a U.S. appeals court to reject an appeal and uphold tough sanctions against a woman who tried to force the international soccer star to pay hundreds of million, and he paid her $375,000 in hush money after the accusations against him. Raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.

The woman’s attorneys asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a June 2022 decision to dismiss the case and reopen the civil lawsuit she first filed in 2018.

The appeal says a Nevada federal court judge should not have rejected the woman’s attempt to unseal and make public a nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2010 to accept payments from Ronaldo.

The three-judge panel of the San Francisco Court of Appeals did not immediately issue a ruling after 45 minutes of oral arguments by attorneys for Ronaldo and his accuser, Catherine Mayorga.

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The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga, through attorneys including Leslie Mark Stovall, agreed to have her name released.

Judge Johnny Rawlinson said the court would consider the appeal that had been submitted. A ruling can take weeks or even months.

Ronaldo is one of the most famous and richest athletes in the world. He leads the national team of his native Portugal and has played for Real Madrid in Spain, Juventus in Italy, and Manchester United in England. He currently plays for Saudi Arabian professional team Al Nassr.

Rawlinson, Ninth Circuit Judge John Owens and Fifth Circuit Judge Sidney Fitzwater, visiting from Texas, addressed attorneys separately during a special appeals court session Wednesday at the campus law school. Question – Many attorneys target leaked documents related to confidentiality agreements. University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Stovall argued that if anyone violated the confidentiality agreement, it was Ronaldo or his associates, but none of the judges was sympathetic to Stovall’s argument. Mayorga’s lawyers argued that he cited sealed documents in the case in response to references from Ronaldo’s legal team.

Stovall argued that Mayorga was not bound by the confidentiality agreement because German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article in April 2017 titled “Cristia Ronaldo or his associates breached the confidentiality agreement prior to the article. Portal “Football Leaks”. “

“We don’t know that the documents handed to me by Football Leaks are the same documents that were hacked,” Stovall told the appeals judges. “We don’t know whether they are accurate copies of attorney conversations. There is no evidence in the record to support those facts. “

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey dismissed the case and sanctioned Stovall for “bad faith,” concluding that Stovall sought to improperly exploit documents leaked or stolen in the cyberattack. to pursue Mayorga’s case.

Las Vegas police reopened the rape investigation after Mayorga filed the lawsuit in 2018, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson decided in 2019 not to pursue criminal charges. He said too much time had passed and the evidence failed to show Mayorga’s charges could be proven to a jury.

Mayorga, a former teacher and model in the Las Vegas area, met Ronaldo at a nightclub in 2009 when she was 25 and went with him and others to his hotel suite. She claimed in a lawsuit filed nearly a decade later that the then-24-year-old soccer star sexually assaulted her in her bedroom.

Her lawsuit alleges conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud. When Dorsey dismissed the case, Stovall claimed Mayorga deserved more than $25 million in damages.

Ronaldo insisted through his lawyers that the sex was consensual and that the confidentiality agreement reached in 2010 was in effect. Stovall acknowledged Mayorga received $375,000.

Dorsey dismissed the case with prejudice last year, prevented Mayorga from re-opening the case and took the unusual step of fined Stovall $335,000.

“The fact that he was not the original thief does not add an element of innocence to his deliberate expropriation of documents from a third party without regard to the obviously privileged and confidential nature of the questionable circumstances surrounding those documents,” Dorsey wrote.

Stovall filed the appeal in March on Mayorga’s behalf, calling Dorsey’s ruling “a clear abuse of discretion.” It seeks to open records and revive the case.

Ronaldo’s lawyers argued – and Dorsey agreed – that the Football Leaks documents and confidentiality agreement were the product of discussions between privileged lawyers and their clients, and there was no guarantee they were authentic and could not be admitted into evidence.

“What you have before you is a case that was prosecuted on the basis that communications and work product between an attorney and a client were hacked and plundered,” said Kendelee Works, Ronaldo’s attorney. ” Mayorga’s attempts through lawyers to shift the blame onto Mr Ronaldo and his lawyers failed both legally and factually. “

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