(CN) — A federal magistrate judge recommended the dismissal of a sexual assault case against professional soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, while scolding the plaintiff's lawyer who brought the case forward.
In his recommendation report filed Wednesday to a federal judge for the District of Nevada, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts lambasted attorney Leslie Stovall, the lawyer representing the woman who claims she was raped by the international soccer star. Stovall based the civil lawsuit against Ronaldo on privileged documents between Ronaldo and his lawyers that were leaked by a whistleblower outlet called Football Leaks.
“Stovall has acted in bad faith to his client’s — and the profession’s — detriment,” said Albregts in the report.
The sexual assault case against Ronaldo was initially settled in 2010 for $375,000. After the documents between Ronaldo and his lawyers were hacked and circulated by Football Leaks, the accuser revived her suit claiming he raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room.
Stovall sought and obtained the documents from Football Leaks, holding onto the documents for 14 months before disclosing them in court under his own letterhead with the word “attorney” omitted when describing their contents.
“Stovall refused to take any reasonable remedial action after receiving privileged documents. He has behaved flippantly, ignoring every single red flag,” said Albregts. “His decision to include the documents in complaints while masking their privileged status was alone audacious. His decision to first reveal them attached to a filing was impertinent. And now, his claim that the Football Leaks documents are ‘fair game’ even after the Court struck certain of them is downright abusive.”
According to Albregts, Stovall should have known that the documents were off limits because of the nature of how they were obtained and because of their content when he read them and saw the words “attorney client privileged” interspersed throughout.
“There is no possible way for this case to proceed where the Court cannot tell what arguments and testimony are based on these privileged documents,” said Albregts.
Citing increasingly prevalent instances of hacking and cyber-attacks on law firms, Albregts cast the recommendation of terminating the case as a necessary safeguard. He warned that “Stovall’s actions could have far-reaching, dangerous consequences on the legitimacy of the judicial process.”
“Using Stovall’s logic, if hacked privileged documents — the origin of which cannot be determined — are circulated online, these documents are ‘fair game’ for an attorney to use to create and prosecute a case,” Albregts said, arguing that anything less than terminating the case would “create the dangerous precedent that, so long as a party is willing to risk changing attorneys or paying a fine, they can use privileged information to prosecute, and maybe even win, their case.”
Stovall and his co-counsel, along with Ronaldo’s representatives, did not immediately return requests for comment.
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