Ruling keeps Ronaldo hush-money case with US judge in Nevada

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FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2019, file photo, Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo looks back during the Champions League Group D soccer match in Madrid, Spain. A U.S. appeals court is letting a federal judge in Nevada decide claims by a woman suing soccer star Ronaldo over a $375,000 rape case hush-money settlement reached more than a decade ago. An attorney for Ronaldo declined to comment and a lawyer for Kathryn Mayorga did not respond Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, to messages about a Jan. 13, 2021, order by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A U.S. appeals court is letting a federal judge in Nevada decide claims by a woman suing soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo over a $375,000 rape case hush-money settlement reached more than a decade ago.

U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey said last September she would decide whether Kathryn Mayorga was mentally fit to enter the confidentiality agreement with Ronaldo’s representatives in 2010.

Mayorga’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, appealed part of Dorsey’s ruling that said a dispute over the legality of the agreement was eligible for arbitration. The ruling also allowed Ronaldo’s attorneys keep documents out of the case and stated that the case was not eligible for a jury trial.

The order by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was dated Jan. 13 and an attorney for Ronaldo in Las Vegas, Peter Christiansen, declined comment Monday about the case being returned to Dorsey.

Stovall did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Mayorga gave consent through Stovall in 2018 to be identified.

Mayorga, now 37, is a former teacher and model who lives in the Las Vegas area.

Stovall acknowledges she received money not to talk about meeting Ronaldo at a Las Vegas nightclub in 2009 and going with him and other people to his hotel suite where she alleges he sexually assaulted her in a bedroom. She was 25 at the time. He was 24.

Mayorga went public with the account in a lawsuit filed by Stovall in Nevada state court in September 2018. The case was moved to federal court a few months later.

Mayorga alleges that Ronaldo or his associates violated the confidentiality agreement by allowing reports of it to appear in European publications in 2017.

Ronaldo, 36, is Portuguese and is one of the richest athletes in the world. He plays in Italy for the Turin-based soccer club Juventus and captains his home country’s national team.

Through his lawyers, he has maintained sex with Mayorga was consensual.

His attorneys have said that media reports about the 2009 encounter were based on electronic data that was illegally hacked, stolen and sold by cyber criminals.

Christiansen has said they believe documents have been altered, and complain that Mayorga’s lawsuit damages Ronaldo’s reputation.

Mayorga’s lawsuit claims conspiracy, defamation, breach of contract, coercion and fraud and seeks to void the 2010 deal. Stovall maintains Mayorga didn’t break the agreement, that Ronaldo should pay at least $200,000 more, and the case should be decided in a courtroom.

Ronaldo’s legal representatives have succeeded in keeping details of the settlement sealed, arguing that Mayorga agreed to out-of-court mediation to resolve disputes.

Stovall has said that Mayorga was pressured by Ronaldo’s representatives to accept the deal while she was mentally unfit and not in condition to consent. Mayorga’s attorney has said she had learning disabilities as a child.

Dorsey said in October she plans to decide whether Mayorga lacked the mental capacity to sign off on the settlement agreement.

If Mayorga was fit, the judge said, the agreement binds her to confidentiality and an arbitrator’s decision about whether the contract was legal and valid.

No hearing date has been set for the case to continue under Dorsey’s supervision.

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