When something happens in the world that stirs people's emotions, it is reflected in headlines and news programs. Newspapers and TV broadcasters then report on the story until other issues arise -- with the consequence that scandals are quickly forgotten before the process of resolving them has really even begun.
That pattern is one that has also emerged in the Ronaldo case.
Little has been heard in recent weeks about the rape accusations that have been leveled against the football star. But that silence is misleading: In Las Vegas, the investigation into Ronaldo continues apace.
The American Kathryn Mayorga, 35, alleges that Ronaldo, 33, raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009 -- allegations which he denies. What is beyond dispute, however, is the fact that he paid her a large amount of money as part of an out-of-court settlement so that she would not take her allegations public -- and especially, to prevent her from assisting in any way with the police investigation that took place back then.
Yet there is a confidential document in existence, the interpretation of which almost necessarily leads to the conclusion that Ronaldo admitted to his lawyers that he had sex with Kathryn Mayorga against her express will.
DER SPIEGEL is in possession of this paper and hundreds of additional documents, most of which come from the Football Leaks trove of information. They reveal how a team of lawyers managed to silence Kathryn Mayorga nine years ago.
In late September, the former model from Las Vegas went public with her accusations anyway. In conversations with DER SPIEGEL, she related her version of what happened in 2009 and how severely the incident traumatized her. She said that she has never been able to get beyond the event and find peace.
In addition, Mayorga has filed a civil action against the Juventus striker. Her new lawyer believes the nondisclosure agreement she signed so many years ago is not legally binding and says that Mayorga had not been legally competent at the time it was signed.
Ronaldo's legal team has consistently sought to prevent any media coverage relating to the case. Most recently, one of his media lawyers sought a preliminary injunction against DER SPIEGEL -- but without success.
Ronaldo's new defense attorney in Las Vegas claims that the documents from which DER SPIEGEL has quoted were evidently "stolen" by hackers and "significant portions" of them "were altered and/or completely fabricated." He has not, however, offered any evidence to back up that claim, nor has he presented affidavits from the lawyers who were involved at the time -- or from Ronaldo.
Now, new details have emerged. They show which of Ronaldo's lawyers at the time created or revised what document, when those changes were made and who the document was sent to. These papers could be decisive for the ongoing police investigation because they indicate how Ronaldo apparently viewed that night in Las Vegas.
The key document appears to be a 27-page questionnaire that was developed by Ronaldo's lawyers to get an impression of what took place in the early morning hours of June 13, 2009, in the Hotel Palms Place in Las Vegas.
Around one month after that night, Ronaldo's London-based lawyer Simon Smith received a message that a woman in the U.S. had accused Ronaldo of rape. Almost immediately, a highly professional legal team was assembled around the superstar, who had just transferred from Manchester United to Real Madrid for a then-record sum of 94 million euros.
In addition to Smith in London, the legal team also included the law firm Lavely & Singer in Los Angeles, the defense attorney Richard Wright in Las Vegas and the lawyer Carlos Osório de Castro in Porto. The latter is one of Ronaldo's closest advisers and is in charge of negotiating the player's contracts.
On Aug. 3, 2009, California lawyer Jay Lavely prepared a 41-page PDF with the title: "Questions for Client." The next day, he sent it to his colleagues Smith and Osório de Castro.
In an email, Lavely warned against having Ronaldo fill out the questionnaire himself. "It is very important that neither the client nor his cousin or brother-in-law should write any memos, notes, emails (or anything else in writing) in answering any of the questions which we send to you. That should be done verbally either by telephone or in face to face meetings. The attorneys should be the ones who memorialize, in writing, the answers to the questions. (...) Otherwise, anything written by the client about the incident or related matters (...) may be discoverable in any legal action that is filed."
At 10:21 a.m. the next day, Aug. 4, 2009, Osório de Castro wrote to a confidant of Ronaldo's: "When is CR flying to the States? What does his life look like tomorrow? I need 2 (!) hours with him to provide answers to the dozens of questions from the American lawyers about the young woman. Sorry."
Additional messages make it clear that Ronaldo's brother-in-law and his cousin, both of whom had been with Ronaldo in Las Vegas, were to be questioned by a colleague from Osório de Castro's law firm. That lawyer, Paulo Rendeiro, created a Word document ("that makes it easier") and sent it back to Osório de Castro. The subject line: "For tomorrow."
By around a month later, all of the interviews had been completed. On Sept. 9, Rendeiro created a document with all of the answers, made final changes two days later and sent it directly to Osório de Castro and another lawyer in the law firm named Francisco Cortez. The attachment was given the title: "Q&A."
Some of the answers were already translated into English, but the rest was in Portuguese. At 6:13 p.m., Cortez answered: "Are you translating the Portuguese today?"
Osório de Castro wrote back at 6:23 p.m.: "I wasn't planning to."
Cortez at 6:26 p.m.: "Okay..."
At 6:59 p.m., Rendeiro wrote: "At the moment, the document is 'for our eyes only.'"
Cortez at 7:08 p.m.: "Okay. I just wanted to know how to translate things like 'bola de cuspo' and 'toca-me ao bicho.'"
The exchange is just one of many indications that the attached questionnaire cannot have been a falsified document. Cortez quoted formulations that are part of Ronaldo's answers. Loosely translated, "bola de cuspo" means saliva, while "toca-me ao bicho" means: She touched my dick.
Three months passed, during which time Ronaldo's lawyers tried to reach an out-of-court settlement with Kathryn Mayorga. Time was of the essence, because just a few hours after the incident, the young woman had gone to the police and had her injuries documented -- but she hadn't yet come out with the name of the alleged perpetrator. She was afraid to do so, she says.
At 1:55 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2009, Osório de Castro sent out a document with the title "TQuestionsv2 ENG.doc." The recipients were Jay Lavely, a colleague of Lavely's and the two lawyers Rendeiro and Cortez. At first glance, the attachment appears to be the questionnaire from September. Ronaldo is identified as "X," while Mayorga is referred to as "Ms. C." The questions, too, are the same. But the answers from Ronaldo aren't even close to the same, as a direct comparison of the two versions makes clear.
Question: "What was said by you and what was said by Ms. C? (This is particularly important if anything was said about having sex or anything like that)"
In the September version, X says: "She said it was not proper to have sex, since they just met ('Better not. It's the first time.') But even so, she grabbed my dick."
In the December version, however, the answer from X was merely: "S he grabbed my penis."
Question: " Describe in detail what happened starting with the first physical contact that you had with Ms. C in the other room and describe the sequence of events regarding any such physical contact and involving any embracing, fondling, kissing, or going from a standing position to lying on a bed, or on the floor, or wherever it took place."
In the September version, X answers: "I fucked her from the side. She made herself available. She was lying on her side, in bed, and I entered her from behind. It was rough. We didn't change position. 5/7 minutes. She said that she didn't want to, but she made herself available. The whole time it was rough, I turned her onto her side, and it was fast. Maybe she got some bruises when I grabbed her. (...) She didn't want to 'give it to me,' instead she jerked me off. I don't know any more exactly what she said when she was jerking me off. But she kept saying no. 'Don't do it' -- 'I'm not like the others.' I apologized afterwards."
Part of the following passage is written in the third person, which is perhaps a function of Ronaldo's lawyer having written down the answers for him:
"They didn't use a condom. They didn't talk about condoms. He didn't come inside of her. He pulled his dick out before. I came on her and on the blanket. There was no lubricant. I used saliva. He doesn't know if she had an orgasm."
In the December version, X says: "She was laying in the bed. I went from behind. We did not switch positions. It was 5/7 minutes. It was rough. She didn't complain, she didn't scream, she didn't call for help or anything like that. We didn't use condoms. We didn't even mention it. I did not come inside. I came "on her" (not "in her") and in the blankets. There was no artificial lubrication. I used some saliva. Can't tell if she had or not an orgasm."
Question: "Did Ms. C ever raise her voice, scream, or yell?"
September: "She said no and stop several times."
Question: "Did Ms. C say anything after you had sexual intercourse?"
September: "Afterwards, she said: 'You asshole, you forced me. You idiot. I'm not like the others.' I said, 'I'm sorry.'"
According to the earlier draft of the questionnaire, Ronaldo confirms key elements of Mayorga's version of events: She said no several times. And he apologized afterwards.
There are, though, also discrepancies between this version and Mayorga's story, such as on the question as to whether she pleasured him with her hand. He says yes. She says no. He also speaks of foreplay in the bathroom.
Why would Ronaldo admit to his lawyers that Kathryn Mayorga had said "no" and "stop" several times? One possible explanation: To be able to develop the best possible defense strategy for a client, a lawyer must have the clearest possible view of what happened.
In response to a request for comment sent by DER SPIEGEL seeking an explanation for the significant differences between the two documents, Ronaldo's Portuguese lawyers also answered by claiming that "significant portions" were "altered and/or completely fabricated."
It looks as though the Portuguese lawyers did not forward the September version of the questionnaire to their colleagues in the U.S. Which doesn't necessarily mean that the U.S. legal team wasn't aware of what was in it. There were, after all, frequent conference calls and face-to-face meetings. In a later email to Osório de Castro, Lavely referred to a discussion that he had had with the Las Vegas defense attorney Richard Wright. According to that email, Wright had said "that it might be as much as 50/50 chance" if Ronaldo were prosecuted. And: "It certainly seemed that Rick was concerned even based on what the client himself had described about what happened between him and Ms P in the bedroom."
Osório de Castro responded to Lavely one day later in red font: "The description boils down to this: everything was consensual. Nothing else matters."
On Sept. 26, Lavely sends an email to Osório de Castro about the out-of-court settlement they are trying to reach with Mayorga. Lavely insists on taking strict security precautions, urging them to "not make any copies of any of these agreements."
Such deals, of course, are supposed to be kept secret by their very nature. But the extreme caution may also have had something to do with the fact that Ronaldo's lawyers were aware of just how sensitive their approach was -- because one of the goals was that of preventing Mayorga from continuing to cooperate with the police, as an email written by Lavely shows: "Since it is a violation of legal ethics and even a basis for filing a criminal claim ..., that aspect of the settlement must, therefore, be approached very carefully."
In the same email, Lavely also reports that the private detective, a former cop, they had hired to find out more about Mayorga had learned that if "Ms. C" were to agree to an out-of-court settlement, "the LV PD (Las Vegas Police Department) would drop the entire matter, terminate the investigation, close the file, and not submit the case to the DA." The latter abbreviation is short for district attorney.
Ronaldo's legal team was ultimately successful. After difficult negotiations, they reached an agreement with Kathryn Mayorga on an out-of-court settlement in January 2010. She received $375,000 for keeping quiet and she ceased cooperating with the police. The investigation was terminated.
But then, something unexpected happened: Almost nine years later, Ronaldo and his lawyers were again confronted with the case. And not just because of the civil action filed by Mayorga, which can be reviewed at the Clark County Court in Nevada. She has since been interviewed several times by the police, who have reopened the investigation. The case does not fall under the statute of limitations.
Mayorga's clothes, in storage since 2009, have since been examined. The police have also interviewed witnesses. Prosecutors may make a decision on how to proceed in the coming weeks.
And Ronaldo? At first, he didn't seem to be terribly bothered by the whole thing. On Sept. 28, he posted a live video on Instagram showing him lying down in a white T-shirt: "Fake, fake news," he says in the video. "I am a happy man and all good."
Comments since then, though, have sounded a bit more reflective. In an interview with the French magazine France Football, Ronaldo said: "Of course this story has an effect on my life. I have a partner, four children, an aging mother, sisters, a brother, a family that I am really close to. Not to mention my reputation, which is exemplary. For my teammates, my family, the fans who support me, this story isn't inconsequential."
Ronaldo's lawyers have repeatedly threatened legal action against DER SPIEGEL. Yet, before each story, DER SPIEGEL has given Cristiano Ronaldo ample opportunity to comment, to clarify things, to refute the accusations or to expose them as untrue. Ronaldo has never taken advantage of this opportunity. Instead, DER SPIEGEL has only ever received messages from his legal team. Such as the one from the Berlin-based media lawyer Christian Schertz, who would also like to prohibit DER SPIEGEL from quoting from his emails.
On Sept. 17, Schertz wrote: "In the present case, you are (...) not just violating the conventions of reporting on unproven claims, you are also violating our client's intimate sphere by reporting in detail on alleged occurrences in this area." And: "A summary examination" of previous reports have led to the conclusion "that our client is entitled to almost comprehensive injunctive relief (...) and significant financial compensation that surely could lie in the range of several-hundred-thousand euros."
Ten days later, he wrote again, this time referring to the questionnaire in which Ronaldo stated that Kathryn Mayorga had apparently said "no" and "stop" several times. This "alleged document, assuming it even exists," would be "protected by attorney-client privilege."
The next day, Schertz sent out a memo to other media outlets warning against citing DER SPIEGEL coverage of the case. "It is likely one of the most serious violations of personality rights in recent years," he wrote.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 49/2018 (December 1st, 2018) of DER SPIEGEL.
On Oct. 10, Schertz submitted a request to the district court of Hamburg for "the issuance of a preliminary injunction." His goal was that of prohibiting DER SPIEGEL from reporting on "an intended civil complaint due to an alleged rape committed by the applicant." In the request, he also wrote that if the DER SPIEGEL article were to quote from "alleged statements" made by Ronaldo to his lawyers, it should be noted that Ronaldo "never made such a statement as quoted by DER SPIEGEL."
A court memorandum from Oct. 15 notes that Schertz was informed over the phone that the DER SPIEGEL stories about Ronaldo did not represent "unlawful reporting on unproven claims."
In reply, Schertz sent the court a message containing just a single sentence: "Pertaining to the legal matter Ronaldo./.SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein GmbH & Co. KG 324O471/18, we herewith withdraw our application for a preliminary injunction."
By Rafael Buschmann, Andreas Meyhoff, Nicola Naber, Gerhard Pfeil, Antje Windmann, Christoph Winterbach and Michael Wulzinger