Witness Testimony Upends Rape Allegation Against Former NFL Punter
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza was not present when an alleged gang rape of a minor occurred at an October 2021 party in San Diego nor was he visible in videos recovered after the incident, which led to a police investigation and a lawsuit by the woman who said she was attacked, according to witness testimony.
The testimony was included in evidence that prompted the San Diego District Attorney to not press criminal charges against Araiza last year.
ESPN obtained and reviewed audio from a Dec. 7, 2022, meeting during which the details were discussed. The meeting was attended by San Diego deputy district attorney Trisha Amador and the woman, as well as the woman’s attorney, district attorney investigator Ted Mansour and a selected victim advocate.
The purpose of the meeting was largely for Amador to explain why criminal charges could not be filed and answer questions after the San Diego Police Department concluded its investigation in August 2022.
Amador told the woman Araiza left the off-campus party about an hour before the time of the reported rape, according to a witness. Amador said Araiza is “alleged to have left the party at 12:30” and was not “even at the party anymore” when the alleged rape occurred at 1:30 a.m. Pacific, according to video time stamps of the encounter.
Amador also told the woman that nobody outside of her office, including the witness who testified to Araiza’s departure from the party, knows about the specific time stamps of the videos recovered from the party.
The Bills released Araiza in August, just days after the woman filed her lawsuit. The accuser alleged in the suit that Araiza, then 21, had sex with her in a side yard at an off-campus residence before bringing her into a bedroom where a group of men took turns raping her. She said she went in and out of consciousness as the men assaulted her for about 90 minutes.
The woman, who was 17 at the time, reported the alleged rape the following day to the San Diego Police Department, which investigated the allegations for nine months before turning over its investigation to prosecutors on Aug. 5, 2022.
The district attorney’s office also was unable to prove that there was awareness of her age or her intoxication level. At least two witnesses at the party allegedly heard the girl say she was 18, while others said they didn’t recall her age coming up.
“The DA’s Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division has a team of Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, and Victim Advocates who are trained on how to be trauma-informed when interacting with victims,” Tanya Sierra, assistant director of communications for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement. “It’s a priority for our office that we treat victims with dignity, respect, courtesy, and sensitivity.
“Even in instances where we cannot file charges because we cannot prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, we reach out to the victims so they can meet with us so we can explain why the case cannot be filed and answer their questions.”
Araiza was nicknamed the “Punt God” and honored as a consensus All-American for his booming kicks that helped San Diego State to a school-best 12-2 season in his senior year. He was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft.
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