Former Bills Punter Matt Araiza Will Not Be Criminally Charged In Alleged Gang Rape Of Minor

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
Aug 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza (19) makes contact with the ball in the second quarter pre-season game against the Indianapolis Colts at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that former Bills punter Matt Araiza will not face criminal charges after being accused of raping a 17-year-old as part of an alleged gang rape. Araiza was released by the Bills in August before the start of the NFL season and the news led to his family allegedly receiving death threats, according to his parents.

“In the intervening 124 days, sexual assault experts, including District Attorney prosecutors and investigators, meticulously 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 D.A.’s press release said. “The search warrants yielded four terabytes of data which included forensic evidence from cell phones and video evidence of the incident itself. In addition, the DA’s specialized team worked with SDPD to conduct further investigation, which resulted in interviewing additional witnesses.”

The District Attorney continued, “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. Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Araiza’s agency released a statement on behalf of the punter, saying:
“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.”

In her civil case, the woman says she reported her claims to police the day after the alleged incident and claims she went for a rape exam to collect evidence swiftly after the alleged gang rape.

Araiza could have faced statutory rape charges if the evidence had supported such a charge and the district attorney had decided to charge him.

“In conducting its review, the DA’s Office evaluated the case for various potential criminal charges against the SDSU students including statutory rape, forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, rape by intoxication, and oral copulation by intoxication,” the D.A. said.

Attorney Dan Gilleon, who represents the alleged victim told Tim Graham of The Athletic:

I’m not surprised. The police rarely pay much attention to cases where the victim is intoxicated. Here, the police made it clear in January 2022 that they weren’t interested in the case. They made that clear by ghosting my client and keeping her in the dark. It was only the media attention that caused the police to commence a dog and pony show long enough for them to say they conducted a thorough investigation.”

Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com first reported the decision which comes after a lengthy investigation into the alleged incident which the woman claims happened in October of 2021 during a college party she attended.

Araiza and two of his former San Diego State Aztecs teammates, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko, were accused of gang-raping the 17-year old at an off-campus Halloween party last fall.

A civil lawsuit, which sparked a criminal investigation, claimed that the teen showed up to the party drunk and was approached by Araiza who offered her a drink. The woman said in the court documents that she believes Araiza may have put other substances in the drink saying that she felt it “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances,” according to her complaint. She also said in the suit that she allegedly told Araiza, who was 21 at the time, that she was a senior in high school.

The teen claimed Araiza allegedly asked her to perform oral sex in a side yard where she alleges he then had sex with her. She accused Araiza of then taking her into a bedroom where there were allegedly at least three other men. She claimed two of those men were teammates of Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleged that Araiza threw her onto the bed and raped her and that she was gang raped. The suit claimed she had moments of falling unconscious but, “does remember some moments from the horrific gang rape.” The civil complaint said she was allegedly not able to leave for an hour-and-a-half and left the room “bloody and crying.”

Back in August, Bills coach Sean McDermott addressed the situation following a preseason loss at Carolina shortly before the Bills released Araiza.

“It’s a situation that’s extremely serious. Just hard to go through. It’s not a situation that I or we take lightly whatsoever,” he said. “I can tell you this my heart, my thoughts and prayers go out to the people involved. And that includes Matt. It includes both sides here. The victim and everyone involved.”

McDermott said the team was committed to “trying to find the truth at the end of the day.”

“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement from his agent, Joe Linta, in August. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”

Araiza’s attorney Kerry Armstrong told the AP back in August:

“I 100% do not believe that he ever forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that….It’s unfortunate that she’s filed a civil suit. I think it’s a cash grab.”

“Matt Araiza’s very upset about this, as you can imagine. He’s very disappointed,” Armstrong said. “But he’s going to get his day in court eventually.”

The District Attorney said Wednesday that it also will not pursue criminal charges against the other two San Diego State players accused of the alleged gang rape. However, the office says it is continuing to investigate the alleged possession of unlawful pornography by Ewaliko as part of a separate investigation.

Araiza still faces a civil case from the alleged victim. In civil cases, a jury must be convinced by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not or 51% likelihood it happened), which is a lower standard of proof than a criminal trial.

Araiza was drafted by the Bills in April of 2022 so he would not be subject to the NFL’s discipline policy. Araiza may or may not be signed by another NFL team now that he is technically available with no risk of being criminally prosecuted. The decision by the D.A not to pursue criminal charges neither implicates Araiza nor absolves him of the public speculation over his alleged involvement in the serious allegations. However, he is entitled to be presumed innocent, under the law, absent a conviction.

The 22-year-old was SDSU’s star punter, setting an NCAA record with a 51.19-yard average. He won the Ray Guy Award and was a first-team AP All-American.

For more on the allegations against Araiza and his release from the Bills, read our archives on the case HERE.

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