A lawsuit filed by a Nevada woman who claims Cristiano Ronaldo raped her nine years ago and paid her $375,000 in hush money has set in motion a two-track legal process in Las Vegas.
One involves the lawsuit, which will proceed to a jury trial in civil court only if a state judge sides with attorneys for plaintiff Kathryn Mayorga on key procedural and statutory questions.
The other track involves a police investigation that was recently reopened at the request of Mayorga, a former model and schoolteacher who alleges that one of the world's most famous athletes attacked her in the bedroom of his penthouse at a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.
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At the end of the investigation, police will decide whether to recommend that prosecutors file criminal charges against the 33-year-old soccer star from Portugal who plays for the Italian club Juventus and his national team. He has had lucrative contracts with other clubs including Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The Associated Press does not generally name people who say they are victims of sex crimes. Mayorga gave consent through her lawyers to make her name public.
THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Mayorga's attorneys say she underwent a medical exam to collect DNA evidence soon after the alleged attack in June 2009.
But the investigation was ended because Las Vegas police said she only identified her attacker as a European soccer player — not by name — and did not say where the incident took place.
The case was reopened in recent weeks at Mayorga's request. Her lawyers say she provided Ronaldo's name to detectives who interviewed her in 2009 and identified the location as the Palms Hotel and Casino.
Police will turn over the results of the investigation to Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson to decide whether to file criminal charges.
A jury of 12 people would have to reach a unanimous verdict of guilt for a conviction on a felony sexual assault charge that could bring a sentence ranging from 10 years to life in state prison, depending on whether the jury decides if Mayorga suffered substantial bodily injury.
Police have refused to release documents about the case. Officer Aden OcampoGomez, a police department spokesman, said Tuesday he could not comment about an ongoing investigation.
Ronaldo's attorneys have not yet responded to the lawsuit filed by Mayorga on Sept. 27 in Clark County District Court.
William Terry, a veteran Nevada criminal defense attorney not connected with the case, predicted that Ronaldo's legal team will ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit before they reply to its claims.
"There will be a ton of issues to decide long before the case gets to a jury," Terry said after reviewing the lawsuit and statements by attorneys at the request of The Associated Press. "I think the whole complaint is vulnerable to dismissal."
Before the lawsuit could go to trial, Judge Adriana Escobar would have to decide if too much time has passed since the alleged attack; whether Ronaldo or Mayorga violated a 2010 non-disclosure agreement that requires Mayorga to keep quiet about an encounter that Ronaldo's lawyers say was consensual; and whether documents cited in European news stories about the case are authentic.
Mayorga's attorneys want to void the non-disclosure pact.
The lawsuit claims Ronaldo used "fixers" to pressure Mayorga to sign. It also accuses Ronaldo or people working for him of conspiracy, coercion and fraud, defamation, battery, breach of contract and negligence for allowing details of the confidential settlement to become public in European publications.
If the lawsuit gets to trial, a jury of as many as eight people would be asked to reach a majority decision based on a preponderance of evidence or the probable truth or accuracy of the allegations. That is a less-stringent standard than a criminal case.
If jurors find in favor of Mayorga, they would be asked to consider possible monetary damages. Mayorga is seeking an unspecified amount greater than $200,000.
TIMING OF THE CLAIMS
Leslie Mark Stovall, a lawyer for Mayorga, has acknowledged that plaintiffs in personal injury cases in Nevada usually have two years to file a civil lawsuit.
However, he says a psychiatrist diagnosed Mayorga this year with post-traumatic stress and depression "caused by Cristiano Ronaldo's sexual assault in 2009." As a result, the attorney says, Mayorga was not emotionally or legally competent to enter the non-disclosure agreement nine years ago.
"We believe that we have the factual basis to ask the court to set aside the agreement so that we can litigate her original damages," the attorney said.
In the police case, veteran prosecutors, defense attorneys and law professor Eve Hanan at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, agreed that the state could bring criminal charges despite the passage of time because Mayorga filed a police report.
"There is no statute of limitations if there is a valid police report," attorney Tom Pitaro said.