REGION — A group of former San Diego State University football players — including ex-Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza — will not face criminal charges for the alleged gang rape of a teenage girl at a house party last year, it was announced today.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that its review of the allegations against Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko did not support criminal charges.
The men remain defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging the then-17-year-old victim was heavily intoxicated while raped by the men at an off-campus party in October of 2021.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, its investigation included meeting with the alleged victim, as well as an analysis of the evidence by sexual assault experts, prosecutors, and other investigators. Witness interviews, sexual assault exam results, DNA evidence, cell phone and video evidence were analyzed during the investigation.
Prosecutors said the review examined the possibility of criminal charges for a variety of offenses, including statutory rape, forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, rape by intoxication, and oral copulation by intoxication. The DA’s Office also noted there was no recommendation from the police department to file criminal charges when prosecutors received the case in August.
“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.”
Araiza was cut from the Bills two days after the lawsuit against him was filed. Dubbed the “Punt God” for the accuracy and distance of his kicking, the San Diego native and Rancho Bernardo High School graduate was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. Leonard and Ewaliko were also subsequently removed from the team’s roster.
According to the lawsuit, the teen — identified as Jane Doe — attended a Halloween party on Oct. 17 with three friends at a house where Araiza lived.
The suit alleges Araiza “could observe that Doe was heavily intoxicated” but handed her a drink, which the complaint says contained not just alcohol, but also “other intoxicating substances.” It also alleges Doe informed Araiza that she was attending high school at the time.
The suit alleges Araiza led her to the side yard of the house and had sex with her, then took her to a bedroom where at least three other men were present, “including defendants Leonard and Ewaliko.”
She was thrown onto a bed and multiple men raped her over the course of 90 minutes while she “went in and out of consciousness,” the lawsuit alleges.
The teen said she reported the incident to police the following day.
Jane Doe’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, wrote on Twitter that he was not surprised by the district attorney’s decision.
“I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated,” Gilleon wrote. “It’s a very rare case where the criminal justice system achieves anything satisfactory for the victim of a sexual assault. Prosecutors cannot file charges unless they can get a unanimous decision (by a jury) who cannot vote to convict unless they’re convinced beyond any reasonable doubt.
“The lawsuit we filed is not in the criminal justice system. It’s a different ball game here. The victim is represented and the focus is on the harm defendants caused her. It is only in the civil system that a victim of sexual assault can get justice, and we plan to do just that.”
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