A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by former San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald against a woman who accused him of rape.
In an opinion issued Friday, Judge William J. Elfving said that the only "third party" the woman spoke to regarding an alleged sexual assault on Dec. 14, 2014, in San Jose was the police. And anyone who speaks to law enforcement of suspected criminal activity "clearly arises from protected activity," Elfving wrote. Legal experts, such as former prosecutor Steven Clark, had already predicted that ruling would occur.
High-profile attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing the woman McDonald sued in March, issued a statement on Monday, stating "we are very happy about this victory."
"NFL players and other celebrities should now understand that suing persons for defamation who allege to law enforcement that they are victims of crime by NFL players or others will be a losing strategy for the celebrity and that the celebrity will be punished by the courts for having filed the lawsuit against the person who made accusations to the police," Allred said. "The punishment will consist of the plaintiff NFL player’s case being dismissed and the losing party being required to pay the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees and cost related to defending against the lawsuit."
McDonald's attorney, Steve Defilippis, issued a response late Monday night, complaining that "what is missing" from the woman's camp is that "the law protects statements to the police, even if they are deliberately false."
Defilippis added that the woman didn't stop at telling the police, but she spread "rumors through the local nightclub industry," and "this is one of our strongest areas of disagreement with the court's ruling." McDonald is evaluating his options, Defillippis said.
McDonald was released from the 49ers in December after these allegations surfaced, and then he was released from the Chicago Bears last month after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge. He has not been charged for either of these crimes.
But in court papers, he and attorney Stephen Picone of San Jose argued that McDonald and the woman in question had consensual sex “several times” both during the December night in question, and the day afterward.
The lawsuit claimed defamation and libel, as the lawyers alleged the woman, whom McDonald hadn’t met until that night, marred his good name and cast him in a "false light." The suit also alleged intentional interference with prospective economic relations and asks for "general damages" and loss of earnings in addition to punitive damages.
The judge struck down each of McDonald's five causes.
The story in McDonald's now-dismissed suit contradicts a police narrative from the woman’s point of view where she stated she had been drinking and injured her head after a fall by the pool and couldn’t remember having sex with McDonald on Dec. 14.
A police officer wrote in a search warrant affidavit that there was probable cause to arrest McDonald for “rape by intoxication.” The suit names the woman, but NBC Bay Area is not because it has not been made clear whether she was indeed a victim of sexual abuse or not.
Allred vowed to pursue her client's cross-complaint against McDonald alleging assault, battery and emotional distress.