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

 Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo stands on the pitch during the team's English Premier League soccer match against Norwich City on April 16, 2022, in Manchester, England. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File) Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo stands on the pitch during the team's English Premier League soccer match against Norwich City on April 16, 2022, in Manchester, England. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

A United States appeals court didn't immediately issue a ruling after listening to arguments on Wednesday from lawyers trying to revive a woman's bid to force international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to pay millions more than the US$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.

Judge Johnnie Rawlinson declared the three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based appellate court in recess and said they would consider the appeal as submitted following about 45 minutes of oral arguments Wednesday from lawyers for Ronaldo and his accuser, Kathryn Mayorga.

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.

It wasn't immediately clear when the court would rule. A ruling likely is at least weeks and possibly months away.

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.

Ninth Circuit Judges Rawlison, John Owens and 5th Circuit Judge Sidney Fitzwater visiting from Texas each asked questions of the lawyers -- many targeting leaked documents tied to the confidentiality agreement -- during the special sitting of the appellate court held Wednesday at the law school on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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 US$375,000.

In dismissing the case last year, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in Las Vegas took the unusual step of levying a US$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.


Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada. Top Stories

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