Former Buffalo Bills and San Diego State punter Matt Araiza will not be charged in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party last year, it was announced Wednesday. officials.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said two of Araiza’s former Aztec teammates will also not be charged in a case that rocked the university over the summer.
“Ultimately, prosecutors determined that it was clear that the evidence did not support the filing of criminal charges and that there was no path to a potential criminal conviction,” Dist. Atti. Summer Stephan’s office said in a statement. “Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Lawyer Dan Gilleon, who represents the young woman, said he was “never surprised that a prosecutor does not press charges for sexual assault while the victim was intoxicated”.
“This is a very rare case where the criminal justice system gets something satisfactory for the victim of a sexual assault,” Gilleon said in a text message.
He said the civil suit his client filed in August against three young men she accused will go ahead.
“In the criminal justice system, the victim is just another witness,” Gilleon said. “She is not represented by anyone…. 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 that the defendants have caused him.
Araiza’s lawyers in the civil case released a lengthy statement on Wednesday saying that “the allegations are not facts” and that the evidence shows “Araiza is innocent.”
“We look forward to defending Mr. Araiza in this civil lawsuit brought by Plaintiff and clearing his name with respect to these allegations against him – once and for all,” attorneys Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush said in the statement. .
They also accused Gilleon of making false statements “through his extensive media campaign”.
A criminal defense lawyer representing one of the former players whose names have surfaced in the public allegations has applauded the decision not to press charges.
“Obviously, I agree with the findings of the district attorney,” said Marc Carlos, who is representing Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, a freshman at the time of the incident.
Carlos said the prosecution had done “due diligence in this case in deciding that there was not enough evidence to secure 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 San Diego County’s most watched cases.
Police and prosecutors said very little about the facts of the case. Details of the allegations were first revealed in a Los Angeles Times article and then in a civil lawsuit filed by the athletes’ accuser in August, naming Araiza and his former SDSU teammates Ewaliko and Zavier Leonard.
Within two days of the filing, the Bills cut Araiza and the Aztecs cut Leonard. Ewaliko had left the team a few weeks earlier.
A criminal defense attorney who represented Ariaza was scheduled to make a statement on Wednesday. Leonard’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During his senior season, Araiza set an NCAA record with a punting average of 51.19 yards. He won the 2021 Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best bettor. He became known by the nickname “Punt God”.
In April, the Bills used the first pick in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft to select Araiza, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School. He was the first punter drafted by the team since 1990.
According to the lawsuit filed by the now 18-year-old woman, the incident took place at a College area home not far from campus in early October 17, 2021.
The lawsuit alleges Araiza, then 21, raped the teenager in a side yard of the residence before bringing her inside to a bedroom, where a group of men took turns raping her. of role. Leonard and Ewaliko were part of that group, according to the lawsuit.
The teenager said she was conscious and unconscious and had her ear, stomach and nose piercings ripped out as men assaulted her for around 90 minutes. She said she stumbled out of the room bleeding and immediately told her friends she had been raped.
She reported the assault to San Diego police the next day. Nine months later, shortly after the teenager filed her civil complaint, San Diego police turned over the results of their investigation to prosecutors for review.
The district attorney’s office said Wednesday it had assessed the case for several potential criminal charges, including statutory rape, forced rape, forced oral copulation and rape by intoxication. The bureau also said the San Diego Police Department did not recommend charges be brought when the case was submitted.
During their review, prosecutors and investigators analyzed evidence including more than 35 recorded interviews with witnesses, the results of a Sexual Assault Response Team examination, DNA results and evidence from 10 search warrants, which included video evidence of the incident itself, officials said.
The office said it has twice met with the young woman who reported the rape and offered her support from the victim services department.
Gilleon said his client met with prosecutors a few weeks ago during the investigation. The second meeting, he said, was on Wednesday morning when they told him they weren’t pressing charges.
Asked about her client’s reaction to the news that there would be no criminal case, Gilleon said she was “upset, obviously”.
According to figures released by the District Attorney’s Office, just over a quarter of rape and related sex crimes cases resulted in charges between 2017 and 2021.
Besides the criminal case, critics condemned the university for failing to launch an administrative investigation into alleged misconduct by student athletes on a winning team. The state of San Diego said it postponed the investigation at the request of police for fear it would interfere with the criminal investigation.
University president Adela de la Torre released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying the school’s investigation was still ongoing. She said since police gave San Diego State the go-ahead in July to begin their investigation, the school has “interviewed people from across our community and reviewed a range of evidence.”
She did not release details of what they found, saying “some information will not be shared due to privacy laws that restrict what information a university can legally share.”
Grand juries are sometimes used in high profile cases to determine if there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges. Like trial juries, grand jury participants are made up of members of the community and differ from the county grand jury which investigates government programs and operations.
The district attorney’s office said Wednesday that a grand jury has not been convened in the case.
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