Soccer star Dani Alves found guilty of rape, sentenced to four and a half years in prison

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Soccer star Dani Alves on Thursday was found guilty of raping a woman in a Barcelona nightclub and sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

A three-judge panel at the Barcelona Provincial Court convicted the 40-year-old former Brazil and Barcelona defender of sexual assault for the incident on Dec. 31, 2022.

The court also ordered Alves to pay 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation to the victim, banned him from approaching the victim’s home or place of work and from communicating with her by any means for nine years.

Alves was summoned to the courthouse to receive the verdict and sentence. Alves’s lawyer, Inés Guardiola, said she will appeal the decision. The victim’s lawyer, Ester García, said this week that she and her client would not be present for the verdict.

The victim said Alves sexually raped her in the bathroom of an upscale Barcelona nightclub on the morning of Dec. 31, 2022. The court considered it proven that the victim did not consent to sex and there was evidence, in addition to the defendant’s testimony, that she was raped.

Alves denied during the three-day trial this month that he raped the woman, testifying to the court “I am not that kind of man.”

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.

The state prosecutor’s office said Thursday that they would study the verdict and then consider whether 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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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press