A Nevada woman has lost her bid in a US court to force the Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo to pay millions of dollars more than $375,000 in hush money she received after claiming he raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.
A US district judge in Las Vegas, Jennifer Dorsey, kicked the case out of 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 discussions between Ronaldo and his lawyers.
In a 42-page order, Dorsey said Stovall had tainted the case beyond redemption. She also said dismissing a case outright with no option to file again was a severe sanction, but Ronaldo had been harmed by Stovall’s conduct.
“I find that the procurement and continued use of these documents was bad faith, and simply disqualifying Stovall will not cure the prejudice to Ronaldo because the misappropriated documents and their confidential contents have been woven into the very fabric of [plaintiff Kathryn] Mayorga’s claims,” the ruling said.
“Harsh sanctions are merited.”
Stovall and an associate, Larissa Drohobyczer, did not respond to requests for comment. They could appeal the decision to the ninth US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. Ronaldo’s attorney in Las Vegas, Peter Christiansen, was not immediately reachable.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent to make her name public.
Dorsey signaled earlier this year she was ready to end the case after Stovall failed to meet a deadline in his bid for more than $25m in damages based on allegations that Ronaldo or his associates violated a 2010 confidentiality agreement by letting reports about it appear in European publications in 2017.
Mayorga’s civil lawsuit – filed in 2018 in state court and moved to federal court in 2019 – alleged that Ronaldo or associates violated the confidentiality agreement before the German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article titled Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret, based on documents obtained from “whistleblower portal Football Leaks”.
Ronaldo’s legal team blamed the reports on electronic data leaks from law firms and other entities. Christiansen alleged information was altered or fabricated.
Mayorga is a former model and teacher. Her lawsuit said she met Ronaldo at a nightclub and went with him and other people to his hotel, where she alleged he assaulted her in a bedroom. She was 25 at the time. He was 24. Ronaldo’s legal team does not dispute Ronaldo met Mayorga and they had sex in June 2009, but maintains it was consensual.
Mayorga went to Las Vegas police but the investigation was dropped because she neither identified her alleged attacker nor said where the incident took place, police and prosecutors said.
Ronaldo, now 37, is one of the most highly paid sports stars in the world, playing for Manchester United and Portugal. He has played for Real Madrid and spent several years in Italy, with Juventus in Turin.
Las Vegas police reopened their rape investigation after Mayorga’s lawsuit was filed but the Clark county district attorney, Steve Wolfson, decided not to pursue criminal charges. The elected public prosecutor in Las Vegas said too much time had passed and evidence failed to show Mayorga’s accusation could be proved to a jury.
Stovall maintained that Mayorga did not break the hush-money settlement. Her lawsuit sought to void it, accusing Ronaldo and reputation-protection “fixers” of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud. In documents filed last year, Stovall tallied damages at $25m plus fees.
The attorney argued that Mayorga had learning disabilities as a child and was so pressured by Ronaldo’s attorneys and representatives that she was in no condition to consent to dropping her criminal complaint and accepting $375,000 in August 2010.
Dorsey followed recommendations from a US magistrate judge, Daniel Albregts, that the case be dismissed for bad faith, “inappropriate conduct” by Stovall and reliance on leaked and stolen documents.
“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,” Albregts said in an October 2021 report.
Stovall “acted in bad faith by asking for, receiving and using the Football Leaks documents to prosecute Mayorga’s case”, Albregts wrote. He blamed Stovall for “audacious,” “impertinent” and “abusive” attempts to make the confidentiality agreement public and recommended that Dorsey reject Stovall’s claim that Mayorga lacked the mental capacity to sign the 2010 agreement.
The ninth circuit ruled this year that it was up to Dorsey to decide that question. It was not immediately clear in Dorsey’s ruling whether the public might still see the Las Vegas police report compiled after Mayorga filed her lawsuit in 2018.
Albregts said denying the New York Times access to what police collected “would almost certainly raise the ‘specter of government censorship’”. He recommended Dorsey transfer to a state court the newspaper’s open-records request for documents.
A protective order Dorsey imposed to prevent the release of the 2010 agreement does not apply to Las Vegas metropolitan police, Albregts found, and “does not bar LVMPD from disseminating its criminal investigative file”.
The attorney Margaret McLetchie, representing the Times, did not immediately respond to a message about that case.