US appeals court to hear arguments over 2010 hush-money settlement of Ronaldo rape case in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A United States appeals court planned to hear Wednesday from lawyers trying to revive a woman’s bid to force international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to pay millions more than the $375,000 in hush money he paid her after she accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.

An attorney for the woman is asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the dismissal of the case in June 2022 and reopen the civil lawsuit she first filed in Nevada in 2018.

The appeal argues the federal court judge in Nevada erred in repeatedly rejecting the woman’s attempts to unseal and include as evidence the confidentiality agreement she signed in 2010 in accepting payments from Ronaldo.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appellate court isn’t expected to issue an immediate ruling after it’s scheduled to question attorneys for Ronaldo and his accuser, Kathryn Mayorga, during oral arguments Wednesday at a special sitting at the law school on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

FILE- Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo stands on the pitch during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, on April 16, 2022. A Nevada woman has lost her bid in a U.S. court to force international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to pay millions of dollars more than the $375,000 in hush money she received after claiming he raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.  (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)US judge dismisses Cristiano Ronaldo rape lawsuit in VegasFILE - Manchester United forward Antony plays against Real Madrid during their Champions Tour friendly match on July 26, 2023, in Houston. Manchester United winger Antony is available for selection again after being given leave of absence to address allegations of domestic abuse, the Premier League club said Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. The Brazil international was cut from his country's World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru earlier this month after details of alleged violence towards an ex girlfriend came to light. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)Man United winger Antony to resume playing after allegations of domestic abuseFILE - Manchester United's Mason Greenwood looks on during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. Manchester United is close to making a decision over whether Mason Greenwood has a future at the club. Charges of attempted rape, controlling and coercive behavior and assault against the England forward were dropped six months ago. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)Manchester United to let Mason Greenwood leave after criminal case was closed

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through her lawyers, including Leslie Mark Stovall, to make her name public.

Ronaldo is one of the most recognizable and richest athletes in the world. He leads his home country Portugal’s national team and has played for the Spanish team Real Madrid, the Italian club Juventus, Manchester United in England and now plays for the Saudi Arabian professional team Al Nassr.

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

Mayorga, a former teacher and model from the Las Vegas area, was 25 when she met Ronaldo at a nightclub in 2009 and went with him and other people to his hotel suite. She alleges in her lawsuit filed almost a decade later that the soccer star, then 24, sexually assaulted her in a bedroom.

Ronaldo, through his lawyers, maintained the sex was consensual. The two reached a confidentiality agreement in 2010 under which Stovall acknowledged that Mayorga received $375,000.

In dismissing the case last year, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in Las Vegas took the unusual step of levying a $335,000 fine against Mayorga’s lead lawyer, Stovall, for acting in “bad faith” in filing the case on his client’s behalf.

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

It alleges Mayorga wasn’t bound by the confidentiality agreement because Ronaldo or his associates violated it before a German news outlet, Der Spiegel, published an article in April 2017 titled “Cristiano Ronaldo’s Secret” based on documents obtained from what court filings called “whistleblower portal Football Leaks.”

Ronaldo’s lawyers argued — and the judge agreed — the “Football Leaks” documents and the confidentiality agreement are the product of privileged attorney-client discussions, there is no guarantee they are authentic and can’t be considered as evidence.

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Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada.

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