No charges filed in Matt Araiza gang-rape case, SDSU students ‘shocked’ and ‘disappointed’

The SDSU community has made their stance known through protests, marches and posters

SDSU+students+walk+to+their+classes+on+Sept.+22

Photo by Jayden Pagsolingan

SDSU students walk to their classes on Sept. 22

by Christian Houser, News Editor

Former SDSU and Buffalo Bills punter, Matt Araiza, will not be criminally charged in the alleged gang-rape of a minor occurring last year, the District Attorney’s office said Wednesday. 

Two teammates of Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko will also not be charged.

In the last 124 days since the District Attorney’s Office received the investigation, District Attorney prosecutors and investigators analyzed “over 35 taped witness interviews, the results of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) exam, DNA results, and evidence derived from 10 search warrants,” officials said. 

The search warrants contained four terabytes of data which included “forensic evidence from cell phones and video evidence of the incident itself,” the District Attorney’s office said. 

After reviewing all the evidence, the District Attorney’s office concluded that “it is clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction.”

The alleged incident occurred over a year ago in October of 2021 when Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko were accused of gang-raping a minor at an off-campus party. A civil lawsuit was then filed, which claimed Jane Doe was thrown down face first on the bed and raped for an hour and a half, leaving the party bloodied. The Daily Aztec has followed the case since the LA Times broke the story last June.

The decision to not file criminal charges marks a turning point in one of the highest-profile cases in San Diego State University’s history. 

“I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated,” Dan Gilleon, Jane Doe’s lawyer, said in a tweet Wednesday. “It’s a very rare case where the criminal justice system achieves anything satisfactory for the victim of a sexual assault.”

While some of the details of the case have been kept out of the public sphere, Gilleon said when the evidence becomes available it will impact public opinion on the case.

“The DA did not reveal all of the evidence, but what they selectively showed us was graphic, and it supported the allegations in our lawsuit,” Gilleon said in a tweet Wednesday. “The defendants will have no sympathizers once the evidence comes out.”

Since the decision was made, SDSU has seen backlash from the community. On Thursday, a protest occurred in front of Hepner Hall and posters stating “Adela stands with rapists” have been spotted around campus, in reference to San Diego State President Dr. Adela de la Torre.

In the wake of the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file criminal charges against three former SDSU football players for the alleged rape of a minor, a poster was taped to the wall of Lamden Hall on Dec. 8 stating “Adela stand with rapists”. The poster is in reference to Dr. Adela de la Torre, SDSU’s President. (Photo by Christian Houser)

The absence of criminal charges has left some students in dismay.

“When the decision came out, I know all of my friends and I were shocked,” Paulina Andrews, a freshman business major, said. “And if anything, we’re kind of disappointed.”

Andrews said the decision has made her rethink the viability of campus safety at SDSU and how this case affects the voices of sexual assault survivors. 

“I wouldn’t feel safe going to parties, especially going out at night knowing that they don’t really take prosecution seriously,” Andrews said. “And I feel like if something happened, my voice really wouldn’t be heard. You know, (it would) just be some athlete over my voice.”

This sentiment was held by Isabella Bush, an environmental engineering junior, who said that safety for women on campus has not been a priority. 

“I think the safety of females is a very important thing that sometimes doesn’t get enough attention,” Bush said. “So I think that since they aren’t pursuing this it’s making us feel unsafe.”

SDSU’s Office of the President sent out a campus-wide email with their response to the decision to not pursue criminal charges. The email reassured students that the SDSU investigation remains active and asks students with direct knowledge of the incident to report information to their online tools.

In the campus-wide email, Dr. de la Torre urged community members to seek support through SDSU university offices as well as their Sexual Misconduct Response and Prevention website.