Ex-NFL Punter: Evidence Shows I Wasn't at Alleged Rape

Alleged victim reviewed the video, says 'I don't think it exonerates anybody'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2023 9:53 AM CDT
Ex-NFL Punter, Alleged Rape Victim Debate the Evidence
Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza walks on the sideline during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, NY, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.   (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

A 101-minute long recording reveals NFL-drafted punter Matt Araiza was not present for the alleged gang rape of a teenager by members of the San Diego State football team. Araiza, who was previously let go by the Buffalo Bills, has sent the recording to NFL teams in an effort to clear his name. Obtained by USA Today, it's from a Dec. 7 meeting in which a San Diego County prosecutor explains why charges weren't filed in the case. Deputy District Attorney Trisha Amador refers to nine short "point of view" video clips from the night of the alleged attack in October 2021 which show the woman was actively participating in sexual encounters with football players Zavier Leonard, Nowlin Ewaliko, and another man who is not Araiza. Araiza, then 21, isn't shown in any of the clips

Witness testimony indicates he had left the party by then. However, he admits to having sex with the 17-year-old earlier in the night. He tells USA Today that he believed she was 18 and the brief, consensual encounter "is absolutely not how it's been portrayed in the media or the lawsuit." A witness indicated the woman was approaching men at the party, asking to have sex, though she said she had "no recollection" of that. Now 18, she maintains that she was too drunk to consent to sex. "I just don't think that's fair at all to look at these short clips that were already way into this assault already happening and ... say that that was consensual," she says, noting the videos amount to about 30 seconds of what is alleged to have been a 90-minute attack. "I don't think it exonerates anybody."

As for Araiza, "he should face accountability for what he did," she says. "It was wrong. I was 17 and I was drunk." But Amador noted it wasn't clear that the men knew the woman was a minor. "At least two witnesses at the party allegedly heard the girl say she was 18," per the AP. "I know the teams know the true facts. They've heard the audio. They know this isn't true," says Araiza. But they still "have a fear that if they sign me, there will be a little bit of backlash because the public has been told things that aren't true." He declined an offer to settle the civil lawsuit for $50,000, saying that would be admitting guilt. The suit remains pending against Araiza, Leonard, and Ewaliko—who's facing a separate criminal charge of child pornography possession—with a trial set for September. (More rape stories.)

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