LAS VEGAS (AP) — More than a decade after soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo paid $375,000 to hush a Nevada woman’s claim that he raped her in Las Vegas, new allegations about cyber hacking, document theft and attorney misconduct are being raised to block the woman’s bid for another payout.
Ronaldo’s lawyers are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed after reports of the sexual encounter became public and to punish the woman’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, for soliciting allegedly stolen documents in July 2018 from an entity called “Football Leaks,” months before filing the case.
“No sanction less than dismissal will suffice,” Ronaldo’s attorneys, Peter Christiansen and Kendelee Works, wrote in a federal court filing submitted May 27. “At a minimum, Stovall must be disqualified from acting as counsel in this matter.”
A federal magistrate judge on Tuesday halted plans for Stovall to question witnesses including Ronaldo under oath — at least until U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in Las Vegas rules whether to dismiss the case, disqualify the woman’s attorneys and impose sanctions against them. A hearing was not immediately scheduled.
Ronaldo, now 36, is one of the most recognizable and highly paid players in sports. He plays in Italy for the Turin-based soccer club Juventus and captains his home country team from Portugal.
Stovall, lead attorney for plaintiff Kathryn Mayorga, did not immediately respond Wednesday to telephone and email messages about the developments.
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.
Mayorga signed a non-disclosure agreement in 2010, and Stovall acknowledges she accepted $375,000 not to talk about the encounter or the settlement. Mayorga was represented at the time by different attorneys.
The existence of the settlement was described in a September 2018 article by the German publication Der Spiegel. It depicted Mayorga, now 37, a former model and schoolteacher, as “an anonymous woman versus Ronaldo.”
The lawsuit Stovall filed for Mayorga two days before the Der Spiegel article appeared accuses Ronaldo or those working for him of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud for allegedly letting the settlement become public in Europe. Her attorneys say Mayorga never wanted her name made public.
The lawsuit acknowledges she met Ronaldo at a nightclub at the Palms Hotel and Casino and went with him and other people to his suite. She alleges he sexually assaulted her in a bedroom.
Ronaldo, through his attorneys, maintains the sex was consensual.
Ronaldo’s lawyers asked in 2019 for the case to be dismissed. Dorsey said last September she would hold a bench trial to determine whether Mayorga “lacked the mental capacity” to sign a confidentiality arrangement with Ronaldo’s representatives in 2010 and “whether any agreement … was ever formed between the parties.” No trial date has been set.
Ronaldo’s attorneys now accuse Stovall of “egregious” legal misconduct since filing the case in state court in September 2018. It was moved in 2019 to federal court. They allege Stovall “tainted the truth-finding process” by withholding key information from them and judges.
Christiansen declined to comment for this report, saying the court filing — 196 pages, including 24 exhibits — speaks for itself. Some documents were sealed because of previous court confidentiality rulings.
Court filings accuse Stovall of seeking from an unidentified cyber-hacker stolen records of confidential communications between Ronaldo and his attorneys from the time when the settlement was being negotiated with Mayorga and her previous attorneys in 2010.
Ronaldo’s lawyers question the authenticity of what they term the “Football Leaks” documents and maintain that they may have been altered.
“Stovall … not only used those documents as exhibits to public filings in this case, but also as support for his request that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reopen a decade old investigation to prosecute” Ronaldo, his defense filing says.
Police spent a year investigating, including obtaining a sample of Ronaldo’s DNA through Italian authorities.
Mayorga submitted DNA and underwent a medical exam shortly after she alleged she was attacked. But police closed their investigation at the time because police said Mayorga only identified her attacker as a European soccer player and never said where the alleged attack took place.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, the elected prosecutor in Las Vegas, said in July 2019 that unspecified forensic and video evidence had been lost over time. He declined to press criminal charges against Ronaldo.
In any civil litigation, both parties are required to share relevant information and documents.
But Ronaldo’s lawyers said they learned less than five weeks ago — and only after combing through documents that Stovall provided to Las Vegas police in 2018 — that Stovall possessed materials showing what Ronaldo and his lawyers talked about when the settlement was reached.
“More than 200 documents appear to be stolen attorney-client communications and work product that Stovall obtained from Football Leaks and provided to LVMPD,” Ronaldo’s attorneys wrote, adding that the material was “never disclosed to Defendant in this litigation.”
“Stovall’s knowledge of the content … cannot be undone,” Ronaldo’s defense attorneys complain. Even if a judge orders Mayorga’s attorney not to use the disputed documents while questioning witnesses, Stovall will “utilize the information gleaned from the purloined material,” they said.
“There is simply no way to unring the bell,” the court filing said.
Negotiations in 2010 took months and included oversight by a mediator in Las Vegas, who is among other witnesses subpoenaed by Stovall for questioning. Those sessions had been scheduled later this month, but they are now on hold.
Stovall maintains that Mayorga had learning disabilities as a child and was mentally unfit to enter the 2010 confidentiality agreement. Court filings allege she was pressured by “fixers” and attorneys for Ronaldo trying to protect his reputation.
Mayorga wants to void the deal and collect at least $200,000 more from Ronaldo, according to court documents filed by Stovall.
Some recent media reports say Stovall is seeking tens of millions of dollars, but Stovall and Drohobyczer did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about those amounts. Christiansen has declined to confirm those reports.