A civil lawsuit filed Thursday in state court accuses three past and present San Diego State University football players — including one best bettor now in the NFL – of the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last year at an off-campus party.
Matt Araiza, 22, whose powerful and precise kicks in college earned him the nickname ‘Punt God’, has been accused of having sex with the minor outside the house, and then bringing her inside to a room where she was repeatedly raped. The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges the then-high school student walked in and lost consciousness, but recalled times when the men took turns assaulting her.
The other men named in the complaint are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. Leonard is listed on the college’s fall football roster as a redshirt rookie. Ewaliko was in the squad last year as a rookie but is not on the current roster.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said he did not review the complaint, but called the rape accusation false. He said his investigator spoke to party witnesses who contradicted the allegations against Araiza.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong said, adding, “There’s no doubt in my mind” that Araiza didn’t rape the teenager.
Attorney Marc Xavier Carlos, who is representing Ewaliko in an ongoing criminal investigation into the incident, said he could not comment on the lawsuit and was still investigating what happened. He said his client was no longer at San Diego State. Lawyer Jamahl Kersey, representing Leonard, said he had not seen the trial and could not comment. He noted that a criminal investigation was ongoing and said no conclusions about his client should be drawn.
The lawsuit comes as the state of San Diego faces continued criticism after a time survey found that the university decided not to alert the campus community to the alleged gang rape and waited more than seven months to launch its own investigation.
Campus officials said police asked them not to take any action that would compromise their investigation and that they were not required by federal law to send a crime notification. After the Times report, San Diego state officials began releasing information about the October incident. on a campus website.
No arrests have been made and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects. Detectives recently submitted their investigation to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to determine if charges should be filed.
The university launched a Title IX investigation last month after the city police department informed the school that it would not compromise the criminal investigation. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded educational institutions. Araiza and Ewaliko would not have to comply with the campus investigation since they are no longer at school.
At San Diego State, he became the second player in program history to earn unanimous first-team All-American honors. He set several NCAA records as a junior last season, including for most punts over 50 yards, and won the Ray Guy Award as the best college bettor in the country. After being named Mountain West Conference Special Teams player of the yearhe said for the NFL Draft.
It is unclear whether the lawsuit will affect Araiza’s professional status.
The lawsuit allegation follows the NFL’s recent announcement that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson serve an 11-game suspension without pay after being accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Watson must also pay a $5 million fine, undergo an evaluation by behavioral experts and follow their suggested treatment program.
“We recently became aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement to The Times on Thursday. “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have conducted a thorough review of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil matter, we will have no further comment at this stage.
Araiza’s name surfaced in connection with the rape allegation in at least one report made by student-athletes days after the party to San Diego state officials via an anonymous campus reporting system.
“I hope that’s not true for Matt’s sake,” one student said in an Oct. 26 report that was reviewed by The Times along with other internal filings in the case. “But if it’s true, I hope he gets the repercussions he deserves and [the] the girl gets justice.
At the time, the San Diego State Aztec Football Team had one of its best seasons in years.
Records show an athlete told campus officials that students who heard about the incident wondered why campus officials hadn’t investigated and if coaches were “trying to sweep it under the rug because our football team is doing so well.”
“Ninety-nine percent of football players know about the rape of five people, so the rest of the student-athletes wonder why nothing is being done,” the student said.
Last week, San Diego State President Adela de la Torre led a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the team’s new home, Snapdragon Stadium, an estimated $310 million venue that is the play mistress of a multi-billion dollar campus development project.
The Aztec team opens the 2022 season at its new stadium on September 3 against Arizona in a game set to be televised nationally by CBS.
The woman at the center of the trial spoke publicly for the first time last month. Now 18, she said she was traumatized and had to finish her final year of high school online. The Times does not generally identify alleged victims of sex crimes, and its lawsuit identifies her as Jane Doe.
The off-campus party began on October 16, and the assault, according to the lawsuit, occurred in the early hours of October 17.
In her lawsuit, the woman said she had already been drinking with friends when they arrived at the party on Rockford Drive, and Araiza, who lived at home, gave her a drink. She believes the drink “contained not only alcohol, but other intoxicants,” according to the complaint.
Armstrong, Araiza’s attorney, said he does not believe the teenager was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to the lawsuit, the teenager told Araiza that she was a high school student and, although he could see that she was very drunk, he told her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her. Then Araiza took her to a room where Leonard, Ewaliko and at least one other man were, according to the complaint, and threw her on the bed, face first. The lawsuit said she was raped for an hour and a half until the party closed.
During the assault, she noticed a light as if someone was taking video on her cell phone, according to the complaint.
The teenager “came out of the room bleeding and crying. Her nose, navel and ear piercings had been ripped out and she was also bleeding from her vagina.
As soon as she escaped, she told her friends she had been raped, according to the lawsuit. A day later, she went to the city police department, where she waited about five hours before an officer spoke to her. She was taken to hospital and given a thorough examination for rape.
At the request of police, she made pretext calls – recorded by detectives – with the men named in the lawsuit who police “determined were present in the room when the rape occurred”. Araiza, according to the complaint, confirmed in a call in late October that they had had sex and recommended that she get tested for a sexually transmitted disease. Later in the conversation, she asked him, “And did we have actual sex?” Araiza reportedly changed his tone and replied, “This is Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night.
San Diego police detectives guided the young woman through her pretext calls, according to a review of the Times text messages. The woman’s lawyer, Daniel Gilleon, said police did not provide any recordings of those calls or his client’s police report. The results of the rape exam were also not released, he said.
The teenager publicly criticized the city police department’s handling of her case, which she said had stalled after the new year, and San Diego state’s inaction. Her father, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said he shared his daughter’s account with campus police three days after the party, but never received any information for the Title IX investigation or complaint process.
The university said it asked San Diego police to provide the information to the victim, but did not respond to repeated questions from The Times asking why campus police did not give the information directly to the victim’s father. victim.