April 23rd, 2024

Soccer star Dani Alves sentenced to four and a half years in prison for sexual assault

By Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press on February 22, 2024.

FILE - Brazilian soccer star Dani Alves sits during his trial in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Alves has been found guilty on Thursday Feb. 22, 2024 of sexually assaulting a young woman in a Barcelona nightclub. A three-judge panel sentenced Alves on Thursday to four years and six months. The 40-year-old Alves denied any wrongdoing during a trial that took place over three days this month. The decision can be appealed. (Jordi Borras/Pool Photo via AP, File)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Soccer star Dani Alves was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman and sentenced to four years, six months in prison by a Barcelona court on Thursday.

The ruling by the three-judge panel followed a three-day trial this month. Alves was summoned to the courthouse to receive the verdict and sentence. The victim’s lawyer, Ester García, said this week that she and her client would not be present.

The ruling considered it proven that the victim did not consent to sex and there was evidence, in addition to the defendant’s testimony, that she had been raped.

The court also imposed 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation for the victim and payment of costs by Alves.

Once it concluded his sentence, the court ordered that Alves, aged 40, be monitored for five years and have no communication with or go near the victim.

The court found Alves sexually assaulted his victim early in the morning of Dec. 31, 2022, when she said he raped her in a bathroom of an upscale Barcelona nightclub.

State prosecutors had sought a nine-year prison sentence for Alves while the lawyers representing his accuser wanted 12 years. His defense asked for his acquittal, or if found guilty a one-year sentence plus 50,000 euros ($54,000) compensation for the victim.

Alves denied he raped the woman, testifying to the court, “I am not that kind of man.”

The decision can be appealed.

The state prosecutor’s office said it would study the verdict and then consider whether or not to appeal.

Alves has been in jail since being detained on Jan. 20, 2023. The Brazilian’s requests for bail were denied because the court considered him a flight risk. Brazil does not extradite its own citizens when they are sentenced in other countries.

The victim told state prosecutors she danced with Alves and willingly entered the nightclub bathroom, but that later when she wanted to leave he would not let her. She said he slapped her, insulted her and forced her to have sexual relations against her will.

Alves modified his defense during the investigative phase while in custody, first denying any sexual contact with her before admitting to sexual relations that he said were consensual. He said he had been trying to save his marriage by not admitting to the encounter initially.

During the trial, his defense focused on trying to show that Alves was drunk when he met the woman.

His conviction shatters Alves’ legacy as one of soccer’s most successful players.

Alves won dozens of titles with elite clubs including Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He also helped Brazil win two Copa Americas and an Olympic gold medal at age 38. He played at his third World Cup, the only major title he hasn’t won, in 2022. He played for Barcelona from 2008-16 and briefly rejoined the club in 2022. He still has a residence near the city.

He was with Mexican club Pumas when he was arrested. Pumas terminated his contract immediately.

The Alves case was the first high-profile sex crime since Spain overhauled its legislation in 2022 to make consent, or the lack thereof, central to defining a sex crime in response to an upswell of protests after a gang-rape case during the San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona in 2016.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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