To be the world’s most famous athlete means Cristiano Ronaldo can appear on screens everywhere yet somehow elude the fallout from a rape allegation.
On a warm October day in Las Vegas, we slip our car into a parking lot wedged between two buildings, then push open the door to the lawyer’s office. My colleague, Nicole Noren, and I figure this will be simple. We are in Nevada reporting on the rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo, and we want to meet Ronaldo’s attorneys, as well as the lawyers representing Kathryn Mayorga, the woman accusing him.
Normally, this sort of meeting is pretty straightforward for journalists. Lawyers, particularly those who do a lot of personal injury work in places with no shortage of clients like Las Vegas, almost always have a strong perspective on a case and are generally happy to tell you all about it. When those clients are celebrities and the cases are in the public eye, that chattiness—on the record or on background—is amped up even more.
We have seen news reports that a lawyer named Peter Christiansen is representing Ronaldo, though we have not confirmed this, and even if it is true, we are not sure which Peter Christiansen—there is a Peter J. and a Peter S. in this office. We find the Christiansen Law offices down the street from a bail bondsman and a wedding chapel. We go inside and, seeing no receptionist or secretary, follow a sign for “Christiansen” down a hall.
We step into an office where two women and a man are sitting. We identify ourselves and ask if we can either talk to or make an appointment with one of the Christiansens. The women physically recoil.
“You have to leave right now,” one of them replies. Her voice rises. “You’re not allowed to be here. You have to go. You have to go.”
She is frantic. I explain that there is no one at the front desk area so we’d decided to walk back. I ask if we can leave a message or even just confirm which Peter Christiansen is Ronaldo’s lawyer. The woman becomes more animated. “You need to leave right now!” she says. “I can call the police if I need to.”
We back away, confused. “A lawyer won’t even confirm he is representing someone? That’s never happened to me before,” I say to Nicole as we walk to the car. She nods. “Never for me either.”
The whole thing feels strange. We look over our shoulders and see the woman from the office watching us as we leave. She peers out the door as we drive away.
THERE IS A lot that feels unusual about this case: the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime, the start-stop-start-again police investigation, the fallout (or lack thereof) that comes with the world’s most famous athlete being accused of committing a violent sex crime.
A big part of this is the timeline. According to Mayorga, Ronaldo raped her in the early hours of June 13, 2009, after she and a friend met him at a club and spent part of the previous evening together. Mayorga, then 25, reported the assault to Las Vegas police that afternoon. She did not identify Ronaldo by name at that time, she says, because he was a public figure and she felt intimidated. She was taken to a hospital and had a rape kit examination.
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