A bid by the New York Times to obtain information that Las Vegas police compiled about Cristiano Ronaldo after a Nevada woman claimed in 2018 that the international soccer star raped her in 2009 appears to be on its way from federal to state court.
A federal magistrate is recommending that U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey transfer to a Nevada judge the newspaper’s open-records request for documents that Dorsey has deemed confidential under a hush-money agreement the woman signed more than a decade ago.
Dorsey said more than a year ago the case belonged in private arbitration. She has yet to decide one final question — whether Ronaldo’s accuser, Kathryn Mayorga, lacked the mental capacity in 2010 to sign a secrecy agreement and accept a $375,000 settlement from Ronaldo’s representatives.
Mayorga’s lawyers sued Ronaldo in 2018, saying she was coerced into the agreement, never wanted to be identified publicly, and is now entitled to millions of dollars more.
The judge has said that if Mayorga was fit to enter the pact, she is bound by confidentiality and an arbitrator should decide behind closed doors whether the contract was valid.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through her attorneys, Leslie Mark Stovall and Larissa Drohobyczer, to make her name public.
Mayorga’s lawyers did not immediately respond Tuesday to email and telephone messages about U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts’ ruling and recommendation to Dorsey, issued last Friday.
Albregts cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a 1984 case involving the Seattle Times. He noted that Las Vegas police were not a party to the Mayorga-Ronaldo hush-money deal, and said that denying the New York Times access to what Las Vegas police collected “would almost certainly raise the ‘specter of government censorship.’”
Albregts added that after a flurry of court filings in recent months, attorneys for Ronaldo and Mayorga “came to agree” that state court, not federal court, is the proper venue to decide whether Nevada law obligates Las Vegas police to release the file.
Mayorga’s civil lawsuit was filed first in state court in 2018 and moved to federal court in 2019. It alleges that Ronaldo or his associates broke the confidentiality pact before the German news outlet Der Spiegel published an article in 2017 based on documents obtained from an entity that Albregts identified as “whistleblower portal Football Leaks.”
The lawsuit accuses Ronaldo and reputation-protection “fixers” of conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud. In documents filed last April, Stovall tallied damages now at $25 million plus attorney fees.
Ronaldo’s legal team, including attorney Peter Christiansen in Las Vegas, blamed the published reports on electronic data hacked from law firms and other entities in Europe and put up for sale. Christiansen also alleged the information was altered or fabricated.
Christiansen and co-counsel Kendelee Works have fought since October 2018 to block public disclosure of the agreement. Christiansen declined Tuesday to comment about Albregt’s decision.
Albregts is an appointed magistrate judge who decided procedural and pretrial matters. He recommended to Dorsey last October that she reject Mayorga’s attorney’s claims that Mayorga’s learning disabilities as a child and pressure from Ronaldo’s attorneys and representatives put her in no condition to consent to the settlement.
Albregts’ scathing recommendation also blamed Stovall for bad faith and inappropriate conduct for using the Football Leaks documents to prosecute Mayorga’s case, and for relying on what the judge termed leaked and stolen documents detailing attorney-client discussions between Ronaldo and his lawyers.
The magistrate cited what he called “audacious,” “impertinent” and “abusive” attempts by Stovall to make the confidentiality agreement public through legal maneuvers and the court record.
“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 added in his Oct. 6 report to Dorsey.
Mayorga, now 38, is a former model and teacher in the Las Vegas area. Her lawsuit said she met Ronaldo at a nightclub and went with him and other people to his hotel suite, where she alleged he assaulted her in a bedroom in June 2009. She was 25 at the time. Ronaldo was 24.
Ronaldo, now 37, is one of the most highly paid and recognizable sports stars in the world. He plays for the English Premier League club Manchester United and has captained his home country soccer team, Portugal. He spent several recent years playing in Italy for the Turin-based club Juventus.
Ronaldo has four children, including a daughter with his partner, Georgina Rodríguez.
His lawyers do not dispute Ronaldo met Mayorga and they had sex. But Christiansen maintained it was consensual and not rape.
Mayorga went to Las Vegas police at the time, but police closed the investigation because Mayorga neither identified her alleged attacker by name nor said where the incident took place, authorities said.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, the elected prosecutor in Las Vegas, decided in 2019 not to pursue criminal charges based on the Las Vegas police investigation of an incident that occurred a decade earlier.
Too much time had passed, Wolfson said, and evidence failed to show that Mayorga’s accusation could be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.