Former Bills Punter Matt Araiza Was Not Present at Alleged Gang Rape, Prosecutors Claim: Report
A civil lawsuit was filed in the San Diego County Superior Court last year, accusing Araiza and two other men of raping a high school senior at an off-campus party
Ten months after former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza was accused of participating in a 2021 gang rape, new details have emerged about why the football player was not convicted of any charges.
The lawsuit, filed in the San Diego Superior Court in Aug. 2022, accused Araiza, 22, of having sex with an intoxicated 17-year-old girl outside of a home and then bringing her inside, where she was allegedly further assaulted by Araiza and former San Diego State football players Zavier Leonard and Nowlin "Pa'a" Ewaliko.
Araiza later admitted to having consensual sex with the victim that night and again when speaking to USA Today Sports. "We had a brief encounter, and it is absolutely not how it's been portrayed in the media or the lawsuit," he told the outlet.
In December, prosecutors determined they would not press any criminal charges following an investigation that spanned 124 days, per the report. Little information was made available at the time regarding the circumstances that led to that decision, despite authorities having gathered more than 35 witness statements and 10 search warrants that found four terabytes of information regarding the incident.
On Thursday, USA Today obtained a transcript of the victim's meeting with deputy district attorney Trisha Amador that offered more insight into the lawsuit's dissolution.
The victim, whose name has not been made public, submitted video recordings from the night of the alleged incident to authorities.
According to the transcript, per USA Today, Amador told Araiza's accuser, "In looking at the videos on the sex tape, I absolutely cannot prove any forceable sexual assault based upon what happened."
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Furthermore, USA Today said the transcript revealed that the district attorney's office used video footage to determine that Araiza wasn't even at the scene of the attack when the alleged gang rape happened, based on the "physical characteristics" of the men shown in the video.
According to the outlet, the encounter between the victim and multiple assailants happened between 12:55 a.m. and 1:30 a.m., one hour after Araiza apparently left the party.
The lawsuit accusing Araiza of the assault also claimed that the former NFL player "knew or should have known" that the victim was a minor and that she appeared "heavily intoxicated" when the two engaged in a sexual encounter earlier in the night.
During the meeting, Amador produced multiple witness statements from guests at the party who claimed the accuser "made a statement" to the party telling guests she was 18 years old. Another video submitted to police showed the accuser lying about her age on camera during an unrelated party the night before the alleged rape.
However, the woman said that she "doesn't trust" the witness statements in question when speaking to USA Today Sports.
Related:Buffalo Bills Release Matt Araiza After Punter Was Accused of Gang Sexual Assault in Lawsuit
According to the USA Today report, the accuser had informed her friends at the party that she had participated in separate, consensual encounters with Araiza and another unidentified man that evening. "You had returned and then came back and said you had sex with a guy, this would have been the second person that would have been in the progression of the evening," Amador said.
Amador described the victim's demeanor as "being OK, not scared or distraught, seemed happy, seemed consensual," per USA Today.
The district attorney also noted that the victim was "not intoxicated at this point that anybody would know" she was unable to give consent in the video. "There's nothing that appears to be you can't control the position that your body is in."
The woman claimed in her USA Today interview that she recalls being "so drunk she couldn't walk" out of the home that night. "I couldn't even shower myself. My friend had to shower me. I mean, I was just out of it," she said.
Footage from a cell phone shows the victim and one of Araiza's former teammates named in the suit engaging in a sexual encounter on the couch in the home. However, according to USA Today's report based on the transcript, an investigator for the San Diego County district attorney's office told the victim, "When asked by the police if you had sex with anybody at the party that was not forced, your response was you never said no to anyone, but you never intended to have sex with them."
"It's an intimidating feeling, and when you know that you're drunk and you know that you're not wearing much clothing and you know that you're young, it's really just a helpless feeling almost," the woman told USA Today.
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Though the district attorney has dismissed the charges, all three men are named in a lawsuit filed by the victim, who is suing for unspecified damages. A trial is set for October in San Diego.
USA Today confirmed with the victim's attorney Dan Gilleon that Araiza was given the option to settle the case for $50,000 but the former NFL player told the outlet he felt that option would be "admitting guilt."
Araiza was let go from the Bills days after the lawsuit was filed and has yet to sign a deal with another NFL team. His agent told USA Today that they feel teams are being "discriminatory" and "ignorant" toward him after he was "cleared" and "proved that he did nothing wrong."
The Buffalo Bills did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
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