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Content warning: This story contains details of alleged sexual violence.
Former Buffalo Bills and San Diego State University football punter Matt Araiza will not be charged in connection with the alleged gang rape of a minor, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
Araiza was one of three now-former Aztec football players named in a civil lawsuit. Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko will not be charged either, according to the statement.
The office said sexual assault experts, district attorney prosecutors and investigators all analyzed evidence in the case, which included 35 witnesses, DNA results and 10 search warrants.
“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. “Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Matt Araiza says he plans to continue NFL career
Soon after the DA's announcement, Araiza's agent Joe Linta released a statement from the punter saying he is excited to continue his NFL career.
Statement from Matt Araiza:
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.
— JL Sports (@JLSports3) December 8, 2022
The civil case remains ongoing
The now-18-year old woman alleged that Araiza, then 21, had sex with her in the yard of a house near the San Diego State campus on Oct. 17, 2021. Araiza allegedly then brought her inside the house, where she says she was raped by Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko.
The lawsuit says the woman, then a minor, immediately reported the alleged rape to friends and then to police the next day. Araiza was never arrested or charged following that complaint, and the allegation wasn’t revealed publicly until the filing of the civil suit in August.
After San Diego police investigated the allegations for nine months, it was not recommended that charges be filed when the case was submitted, the District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
Araiza set an NCAA record in his senior season with a 51.19-yard punting average, and became known by the nickname “Punt God.” He was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the NFL draft and cut within two days of the lawsuit's filing. Leonard was cut by the Aztecs, and Ewaliko left the team weeks later.