Former Spain soccer federation chief Luis Rubiales will face trial over an unwanted kiss of a player from the country’s Women’s World Cup-winning team.
Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during Spain’s Women’s World Cup celebration without her consent. Investigative judge Francisco de Jorge ruled Thursday that his kiss was “unconsented and carried out unilaterally and in a surprising fashion.”
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State prosecutors accused the former chief of sexual assault and for allegedly trying to coerce Hermoso to publicly support him in the palpable public backlash.
The trial date will be determined. Rubiales has denied any wrongdoing.
Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of 1-4 years if found guilty based on a sexual consent law passed in 2022, according to authorities in Madrid. The law eliminated the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault, sanctioning any unconsented sexual act.
Rubiales stepped down from his position in September amid the uproar. Spanish state prosecutors accused Rubiales of sexual assault and coercion after the kiss, two days after Hermoso formally accused him of sexual assault.
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He was suspended 90 days after he initially refused to resign from his post. He ran the federation since 2018.
Rubiales had been expected to step down as he addressed soccer officials in the country in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Instead, he refused and claimed he was the victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists.” The defiant speech led to the initial suspension.
Hermoso and her teammates refused to keep playing for Spain as long as Rubiales was in charge of the federation and only returned to the team when the government mediated an agreement by the federation interim president to overhaul its protocols and give more support to women.
The judge also found enough evidence to suspect that Rubiales unsuccessfully pressured Hermoso to appear in a video to quell the public pressure. The judge ruled that along with Rubiales, former Spain coach Jorge Vilda, sports director of Spain’s men’s team Albert Luque, and the federation’s former head of marketing Rubén Rivera should be tried for their alleged involvement.
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Hermoso refused to participate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.