By KEN RITTER Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal magistrate judge in Nevada has sided with Cristiano Ronaldo’s lawyers against a woman who sued for more than the $375,000 in hush money she received in 2010 after saying the international soccer star raped her in Las Vegas.
In a scathing recommendation to the judge hearing the case, Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts on Wednesday 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 U.S. 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,” Albregts decided.
Stovall and other attorneys in his office did not immediately respond Thursday to telephone and email messages about Albregt’s report.
A date for Dorsey to take up the recommendation was not immediately set.
Ronaldo’s attorney in Las Vegas, Peter Christiansen, issued a statement calling Ronaldo’s legal team “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.”
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall and attorney Larissa Drohobyczer to make her name public.
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 Mayorga dropped criminal charges and finalized the $375,000 confidential settlement in August 2010.
Ronaldo, now 36, is one of the most recognizable and highly paid players in sports. He has captained his home country soccer team, Portugal, and plays for the English Premier League club Manchester United.
He spent several years playing in Italy for the Turin-based club Juventus.
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 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. He was 24.
Ronaldo’s attorneys have acknowledged the soccer star and Mayorga had sex, but said it consensual and not rape.
Mayorga went to Las Vegas police, but the investigation was dropped at the time because Mayorga 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.
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 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 U.S. attorneys about the settlement,” Albregts wrote.
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 recognize the privileged nature of the documents, starting with the 2017 Der Spiegel article, which quotes privileged communications.”
Albregts rejected Stovall’s argument that using the documents was justified because Stovall wasn’t the one who stole them and he couldn’t prove they were stolen.
The attorney’s efforts to make confidential documents public through court filings were “audacious,” “impertinent” and “abusive,” the magistrate said.
Albregts recommended Dorsey also dismiss Stovall’s claim that because Mayorga had learning disabilities as a child and was pressured by Ronaldo’s representatives she lacked the mental capacity to sign the 2010 confidentiality agreement.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled early this year that it would be up to Dorsey to decide that question.
“Mayorga’s case against Ronaldo would probably not exist had Stovall not asked for the Football Leaks documents,” Albregts wrote, and Mayorga’s knowledge of the documents’ contents “cannot be undone.”
“There is no possible way for this case to proceed where the court cannot tell what arguments and testimony are based on these privileged documents,” he said.