Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza and former teammates on the San Diego State football team will not face criminal charges in connection with an alleged gang rape of a minor that occurred at an off-campus party in October 2021, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
“Ultimately, prosecutors determined it is clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement. “Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The DA’s office said the San Diego Police Department did not recommend charges be filed when the case was submitted in early August.
A civil suit remains ongoing.
The Bills released Araiza on Aug. 27, two days after a civil lawsuit was filed accusing him of having sex with a then-17-year-old high school senior, who was under the age of consent in California, outside an off-campus party held at his residence in the early morning of Oct. 17, 2021, when he was a member of the SDSU football team. The lawsuit states that Araiza, who was 21 at the time, then took her inside the home, where at least three other men, including the other two defendants named in the suit — Araiza’s then-Aztecs teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko — were located, and that she was repeatedly raped for about 1½ hours. The lawsuit states that nose, belly button and ear piercings were pulled out during the acts and that she was bleeding from her vagina.
The teen reported the rape to San Diego police the following day. Nine months later, on Aug. 5, 2022, San Diego police turned their investigation over to prosecutors for review.
“I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, said in a statement to ESPN. “It’s a very rare case where the criminal justice system achieves anything satisfactory for the victim in a sexual assault.
“The lawsuit we filed is not in the criminal justice system. … It is only in the civil system that a victim of sexual assault can achieve justice, and we plan to do just that.”
Araiza’s criminal attorney, Kerry Armstrong, previously told ESPN that his client spoke with the girl at the party but that the rape allegations are “just untrue.” In a statement released after the allegations were reported, Araiza said, “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Leonard’s name was removed from the SDSU roster after the lawsuit was filed, and Ewaliko was not on the roster when training camp began.
According to the statement Wednesday from the DA’s office, sexual assault experts, including prosecutors and investigators, analyzed the evidence in the case, including over 35 taped witness interviews, the results of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam, DNA results and “forensic evidence from cell phones and video evidence of the incident itself.”
The DA’s office also said it “met with the young woman at the center of this case twice” and “worked with SDPD to conduct further investigation, which resulted in interviewing additional witnesses.”
San Diego State president Adela de la Torre said in a statement Wednesday that the school’s student conduct investigation is ongoing, after the university was cleared by San Diego police in July to proceed with its own investigation.