Ex-Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza won't face charges in sexual assault case

Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza will not face charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault that took place last year.

In its review of the case, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office also said Wednesday that none of Araiza's former San Diego State football teammates would be charged.

"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," the office said in a statement. "Given the understandable public interest in this case, the DA’s Office has a responsibility to inform the public about the process followed during the review and the conclusion reached under the law, while preserving the dignity of all individuals involved."

OPINION: Why didn't SDSU do more amid rape allegations against Matt Araiza, others?

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A civil suit filed August in San Diego County Superior Court alleged the then 21-year-old Araiza had sex with an inebriated 17-year-old high school senior outside of an off-campus party in October 2021 before bringing her inside a room where she was allegedly assaulted by multiple men for nearly 90 minutes.

"I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated,'' the woman's attorney, Dan Gilleon, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. "It’s a very rare case where the criminal justice system achieves anything satisfactory for the victim in a sexual assault.

"In the criminal system, the victim is just another witness. She is not represented by anyone. Prosecutors cannot file charges unless they think they can get a unanimous decision from all jurors who cannot vote to convict unless they’re convinced beyond any reasonable doubt. The lawsuit we filed is not in the criminal justice system.''

Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represented Araiza in the criminal matter, said he informed Araiza at about noon local time of the District Attorney's decision.

"He just got really emotional,'' Armstrong told USA TODAY Sports. "I heard his mom crying in the background, and she’s very happy.’’

Ariaza's father, Rico, said the family had no comment on Wednesday.

"At this moment we're not willing to talk to anybody,'' Rico Araiza told USA TODAY Sports. "We're just kind of laying low.''

"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," Araiza said on social media Wednesday night.

Araiza still faces civil charges, with Gilleon indicating the woman will move forward with the civil lawsuit.

"It’s a different ball game here,'' Gilleon said. "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 achieve justice, and we plan to do just that.''

The attorneys representing Araiza in the civil suit called the civil complaint "deeply concerning.''

"However, allegations are not facts and through the evidence reviewed in our investigation of the plaintiff’s civil claims, Matt Araiza is innocent, and we will obtain a defense verdict,'' Dick A. Semerdjian and Kristen M. Bush, the lawyers representing Araiza, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.

Araiza was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft in late April after playing at San Diego State. He was a first-team All-American and won the Ray Guy Award given to the nation's best punter.

The Bills released Araiza two days after the civil suit was filed.

According to the lawsuit, the teen told her friends that she had been raped after she escaped the bedroom "bloody and crying." The next day she alerted the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) and underwent a rape exam at a children's hospital.

According to the lawsuit, the woman's nose, belly button and ear piercings had been pulled out and she was bleeding from her vagina after the alleged attack.

The lawsuit asserted that Araiza confirmed to having sex with the teen during a recorded "pretext" call set up by authorities and that Araiza instructed her to get tested for STDs.

In a statement released Wednesday, the San Diego District Attorney's office said it received the investigation from the SDPD (SDPD) Aug. 5 with no recommendation to file criminal charges.

Over the next 124 days, the district attorney's office said, 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 District Attorney's team also worked with the SDPD to further investigate the matter and interviewed additional witnesses before the decision was made not to press charges, according to the District Attorney's office.

"It’s important to note that the criminal justice system and the civil court process are very different, with differing burdens of proof,'' the statement read. "The DA’s Office must rely on facts and evidence and not on civil court filings or other reports in the media if not verified by admissible evidence.

"The expert and experienced team of Deputy District Attorneys and DA Investigators reviewing this case have been thorough, thoughtful, and careful to take the constitutional and statutory rights of all involved into consideration before concluding that the DA’s Office cannot ethically file criminal charges in this matter.''

San Diego State drew criticism for, at the request of the SDPD, holding off on is own investigation until the police completed its initial investigation, which lasted about nine months.

SDSU's investigation will continue, said La Monica Everett-Haynes, the school's Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer.

"The DA’s decision has no bearing on the university’s independent investigation,'' she told USA TODAY Sports by email and added, "SDSU’s responsibility is to identify and address any university policy violations."

In the civil lawsuit filed by the woman who said she was raped, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko, two former San Diego State football players, were listed as defendants along with Araiza.

During the its investigation into the alleged sexual assault, the SDPD opened a separate investigation into alleged possession of unlawful pornography by Ewaliko, 19, according to the District Attorney's office.

"That investigation continues and is not connected in any way to the alleged sexual assault,'' according to the statement from the District Attorney's office.

Efforts to reach Ewaliko through family members were unsuccessful.

Contributing: Cydney Henderson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Matt Araiza, ex-NFL punter, won't face charges in sexual assault case