San Diego State University

Ex-Bills Punter Araiza Won't Be Charged in Alleged Gang Rape

Five university football players allegedly carried out the sexual assaults during an off-campus house party on the night of Oct. 16, 2021

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The San Diego District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that it would not be filing criminal charges against the former San Diego State football players accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl last October.

"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 DA's office said in a release.

Five university football players were accused of carrying out the sexual assaults during an off-campus house party on the night of Oct. 16, 2021. The most high-profile name connected with the case was All-American punter Matt Araiza, whose play earned him the nickname "Punt God" and a draft selection by the Buffalo Bills. He was released by the team in August when the allegations became public.

Araiza has not commented directly on the lawsuit but his family denied the claims calling them "salacious rumors" and said there were witnesses that would corroborate their claims.
Five university football players allegedly carried out the sexual assaults during an off-campus house party on the night of Oct. 16, 2021, reports NBC 7's Priya Sridhar

According to the DA's office, sexual assault experts — including DA prosecutors and investigators — analyzed all the evidence in the case, including "over 35 taped witness interviews, the results of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam, DNA results, and evidence derived from 10 search warrants." The search warrants produced four terabytes of data which included forensic evidence from cell phones and video evidence o the incident itself, the DA's office said.

The teen was contacted twice during the investigation and offered support from the DA's Victim Services, the DA said.

A civil complaint has been filed in San Diego Superior Court naming three San Diego State football players accused, including Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin "Pa'a" Ewaliko. Araiza and Ewaliko have denied the accusations. Leonard has not commented on the case.

In the complaint, Araiza is accused of having sex with the then-17-year-old girl outside of the party before bringing her inside, where she was allegedly gang raped. The complaint also states the teen told Araiza she was a high school student.

Araiza "could observe that [the teen] was heavily intoxicated" and handed her a drink that she did not see him pour, according to the complaint. "Upon information and belief, this drink not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances," the complaint added.

The teen was allegedly led into a room that Leonard, Ewaliko and at least one other person were already in. She went in and out of consciousness as the men raped her, but she remembered seeing what appeared to be the light of a cell phone in her peripheral vision, as if someone was recording a video, according to the complaint.

The alleged rape lasted for about an hour and a half and ended when the party was shut down, the complaint said. The teen, who has since turned 18, reported the alleged incident to SDPD the next day.,%22a%20public%20relations%20move.%22

The San Diego Police Department closed its criminal investigation of the alleged incident in early August without detailing what, if anything, was discovered. 

NBC 7 has reached out to the teen's attorney for a statement who sent us the following:

"I can say that the DA did not reveal all of the evidence, but the evidence they did show us was graphic and supported the allegations in our lawsuit. The defendants will have no sympathizers once the evidence comes out," Dan Gilleon said.

Ewaliko's Attorney, Marc X. Carlos, sent NBC 7 the following statement:

"I am supportive of the decision of the District Attorney to not file charges in this matter. This was clearly a decision made after an exhaustive review of all available evidence by an experienced prosecution team acting according to ethical duties."

Leonard's attorney, Jamahl C. Kersey, sent NBC 7 the following statement:

"We're pleased with the result as far as the criminal case is concerned. We believe the correct decision was made by the DA's Office not to move forward with the filing of criminal charges."

Araiza's attorney, Kerry L. Armstrong said this after the DA's decision:

"She [the DA] gave me the good news. I told her over and over again how happy I was, and how thankful I was that she had gone through everything and saw everything the way my investigator and I saw everything. I am very happy about it."

Araiza later issued a statement by his agent, Joe Linta.

"I am grateful that the District Attorney and the San Diego Police Department have discovered all the facts and found no criminal wrongdoing. I am excited to continue my NFL career."

NBC 7 spoke with the teenager's father earlier this year.

“As a father, I would like to see the people that did this to my daughter held accountable," the man told NBC 7. "I don’t know what that means — I’m sure that there’s plenty of statutes and laws that dictate what that is. But I would like them to not feel like they can do it again."

SDSU President Adela de la Torre said the university was given the green light by San Diego police to launch its own investigation, which remains active, SDSU said Wednesday.

"I understand that this will be a difficult time for members of our collective community, but you should know that the District Attorney’s decision has no bearing on our ongoing student conduct investigation at SDSU, which continues," SDSU said in a statement.

During the DA's investigation, SDPD opened a separate investigation into the alleged possession of unlawful pornography by 19-year-old Ewaliko, one of the football players named in the civil complaint. The DA said that investigation continues and is not connected to the alleged sexual assault.

SDSU has launched an investigation into the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl by five football players. NBC 7's Nicole Gomez explains why the school is now investigating the October 2021 case.

If someone is a victim of sexual assault, they should call 911 and report it as soon as possible to the police. The District Attorney’s Victim Services Division can be reached at 619-531-4041. The Center for Community Solutions operates the only 24-hour toll-free County-wide crisis line for crisis intervention and information and referrals related to sexual assault at 1-888-385-4657.

No other information was available.

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