June 25, 2024

Luis Rubiales’ World Cup protégés are explained and what happens next

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The latest development surrounding striker Jenni Hermoso’s unsolicited kiss by Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales after Spain’s World Cup final victory came on Wednesday when it was revealed Hermoso had filed a lawsuit with Spanish prosecutors.

Hermoso’s decision to join the criminal investigation and accuse Rubiales of sexual assault during the medal ceremony in Sydney on August 20 represents a significant increase in the potential consequences for Rubiales, who has already faced attempts on multiple fronts to take him under his control removed from office.

FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Rubiales last month after he refused to resign over his behavior and temporarily suspended him from all football-related activities for 90 days while the investigation continues. The Spanish government has also tried to permanently exclude Rubiales from the RFEF presidency. Spain’s Supreme Sports Council (CSD) has taken a case to the country’s Sports Administrative Court (TAD), although the TAD’s decision to classify Rubiales’ behavior as “serious” rather than “very serious” limits the possible action.

Rubiales is now facing a lengthy criminal investigation. Prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation on August 28 and offered Hermoso the opportunity to press charges, which she did in person this week. On Friday, those prosecutors filed a lawsuit in court accusing Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion. If the court accepts this lawsuit, Rubiales will be officially charged.

ESPN examines the legal implications of Hermoso’s decision, the likely scope of the criminal case and its impact on other efforts to remove Rubiales from his post.


Why did law enforcement begin investigating Rubiales’ behavior?

Prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation because they believed there was sufficient prima facie evidence that Rubiales may have committed a crime.

Hermoso’s statement, published on August 25th, in which she said that “at no point was his kiss ever consensual” and that she felt “vulnerable and the victim of an impulsive, sexist act” would have been taken into account. Now that Hermoso has decided to press charges, prosecutors have filed the lawsuit in court and the investigation continues.

The fact that the kiss took place in Australia does not constitute an obstacle to prosecution in Spain, as both parties involved are Spanish nationals. A further requirement in such cases is that the act also constitutes a criminal offense in the country in which it was committed. Europa Press news agency reported on Thursday that prosecutors would ask the judge presiding over the case to confirm that the kiss would also be considered a criminal offense in Australia, which would allow it to be prosecuted under Spanish law.

What crime is Rubiales accused of? Could he go to prison?

“The crime under investigation is sexual assault under Article 178 of the Spanish Penal Code,” criminal lawyer Marta Soto of Barcelona-based law firm Auris Advocats told ESPN. “Article 178 states this [the offence] should be punished with a prison sentence of between one and four years.” In some cases, this sentence could even be increased.

“If it is assumed that there was violence, intimidation or abuse of authority, the sentence can be between one and five years,” says criminal law professor Emilio Cortes said COPE Radio on Thursday.

If found guilty, the judge would decide whether the punishment should be at the higher or lower end of this spectrum, or even reduced to a fine.

“In the Rubiales case, I think a guilty verdict would result in a prison sentence in the lower half of the range or a fine,” Soto told ESPN. “Given that a ‘kiss’ like this could be considered less important, and as far as we know, this would be Rubiales’ first offense… In my opinion, it would be unlikely that he would ultimately serve a prison sentence.”

How long might the criminal investigation take?

The Spanish criminal justice system is notoriously slow, and despite significant political and social pressure in the Rubiales case, there is no guarantee that a resolution will be reached in the near future.

“In general, the average time in Spain for this type of trial, from the indictment to the first verdict after the trial – without taking into account subsequent appeals – can be between two and three years,” Soto told ESPN. “Maybe with all the media attention, [this case] have priority and the process would end sooner.”

Other legal experts have suggested that the Rubiales case could be handled more quickly because the crime itself was public and the scope of the investigation required was limited.

Will Rubiales be suspended until the criminal case is resolved, or could he return to the presidency once his FIFA ban ends?

FIFA has suspended Rubiales for 90 days while disciplinary proceedings against him continue. However, criminal proceedings are likely to take significantly longer.

In Spain, the court’s ability to issue an injunction restricting the defendant’s freedoms while criminal proceedings are ongoing is limited, given the importance of the presumption of innocence. “In criminal proceedings, I see no possibility of suspending the proceedings [Rubiales] temporarily,” Soto told ESPN.

“Precautionary measures in criminal law focus on ensuring [the accused’s] Presence in court to prevent an escape from the country – hence Dani Alves [the former Barcelona player who has been accused of sexual assault] for example, is in prison – to ensure the victim’s safety… or to prevent him from obstructing the proceedings. Therefore, the criminal justice system cannot suspend him from the presidency.”

This raises the prospect that if FIFA’s suspension is not extended beyond 90 days, Rubiales would have the opportunity to return to the RFEF even if criminal proceedings are pending against him.

Will the other cases against Rubiales continue alongside the criminal case?

Rubiales has already faced disciplinary action from FIFA and the case filed by the Spanish government with Spain’s Supreme Sports Court (TAD). However, TADs are now on hold until the criminal case is resolved.

“The principle non until in idem states that no one can be convicted of the same crime twice,” Soto told ESPN. “In these cases, administrative or civil proceedings – such as the TAD, an administrative court – must be suspended until the criminal court makes a final decision.”

“If [Rubiales] If he is found guilty of the offense of sexual assault, he would not receive any further sanctions from the TAD. If he were found innocent, the TAD could continue its investigation… The normal thing here would be that the TAD would stop its proceedings as soon as the criminal court begins its proceedings.

Essentially, the focus of the action against Rubiales – at least within Spain – is now on the criminal proceedings. Spanish football’s ability to emerge from this scandal will depend on how long the case lasts and what verdict is reached. But with the opportunity to appeal, even that may not be the end of the story.

Additional reporting by Moises Llorens

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