Update: Former Buffalo Bills player and standout punter at San Diego State University Matt Araiza will not be charged in the reported gang rape of a student at an off-campus party last year, the DA’s office stated.
The investigation involved more than 35 witness interviews and evidence derived from 10 search warrants that included cellphone data and video from the night in question, the DA’s office said in a statement.
Lyndsay Winkley and Teri Figueroa
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — Former Buffalo Bills punter and standout San Diego State University football player Matt Araiza will not be charged in connection with the reported gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party last year, officials announced Wednesday.
The District Attorney Office said none of his former Aztec teammates will be charged in a case that rocked the university over the summer when news broke of allegations involving players on the team.
“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 office said in a statement. “Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ariaza’s attorney is expected to make a statement later Wednesday.
A defense attorney representing another of the now former players whose names surfaced in public allegations applauded the decision not to file charges.
“Clearly, I agree with the findings of the district attorney,” said Marc Carlos, who represents Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, a freshman at the time of the incident.
Carlos said the prosecution did “due diligence in this matter in deciding that there was insufficient evidence to get a conviction at trial.”
The decision not to file criminal charges, more than a year in the making, marks a pivotal moment in one of the most watched criminal cases in the county.
Until now, police and prosecutors have said very little about the investigation. Details of the allegations surfaced first through media reports then in a civil lawsuit the young woman filed last month publicly naming Araiza and former SDSU teammates Ewaliko and Zavier Leonard.
Within two days of the filing, the Bills cut Araiza, and the Aztecs cut Leonard. Ewaliko’s name slipped off the team roster a few weeks earlier.
According to a civil lawsuit filed by the now 18-year-old woman in August, the incident happened at a College Area home not far from campus on early Oct. 17.
The suit alleges that Araiza, then 21, had sex with the teen in a side yard of a College Area residence before bringing her into a bedroom where a group of men took turns raping her. Leonard and Ewaliko were part of that group, the suit said.
The teen said that she was in and out of consciousness and her ear, belly and nose piercings were ripped out as men assaulted her for about 90 minutes. She said she stumbled out of the room bloodied and bruised and immediately told her friends she’d been raped.
She reported the rape to San Diego police the following day. Nine months later, in early August, San Diego police turned their investigation over to prosecutors for review.
The District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that the Police Department did not recommend charges be filed when the case was submitted.
Critics have lambasted the university for failing to start an administrative inquiry into the allegations of misconduct by student athletes on a winning team. San Diego State said it had deferred investigating at the request of police, for fear it would harm the criminal investigation.
In his senior season, Araiza set an NCAA record last season with a 51.19-yard punting average. He earned the 2021 Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter. He became known by the nickname “Punt God.”
In April, the Buffalo Bills used the first pick in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft to select Araiza, a Rancho Bernardo High School graduate. He was the first punter the team had used a draft pick to obtain since 1990.
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