SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County District Attorney will not be pressing charges against former San Diego State University football players who allegedly raped a 17-year-old girl in October of last year.
The announcement comes four months after San Diego Police turned the investigation over to the DA's office.
CBS 8 was the first to interview the teen who said she was gang-raped by several football players at an off-campus party on Rockford Drive.
The teen girl later filed a civil lawsuit against Aztecs' former punter, Matt Araiza, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills; Zavier Leonard, who is a current member of the Aztecs team; and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the Buffalo Bills dropped Araiza from its roster.
According to the DA's December 7 statement, "prosecutors determined it is clear the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges and there is no path to a potential criminal conviction."
The District Attorney's Office says that during the course of its investigation, prosecutors conducted interviews with over 35 witnesses, examined the rape kit test and the DNA collected from it, and conducted 10 search warrants.
Reads the statement, "The search warrants yielded four terabytes of data which included forensic evidence from cell phones and video evidence of the incident itself."
The District Attorney added that its investigation was solely based on whether or not prosecutors had substantial evidence needed to convict the alleged defendant and said that the ongoing civil case does not have to meet the same burdens of proof.
See the entire DA's statement here.
Alleged Victim's Civil Attorney Responds to DA's Decision
And while the criminal probe in the alleged gang rape has concluded, the civil case against the three players says he is not surprised by the decision to not file charges and says their case will move forward.
"I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated," says the teen's attorney, Dan Gilleon.
"It’s a very rare case where the criminal justice system achieves anything satisfactory for the victim in a sexual assault. In the criminal system, the victim is just another witness. She is not represented by anyone. Prosecutors cannot file charges unless they think they can get a unanimous decision from all jurors who cannot vote to convict unless they’re convinced beyond any reasonable doubt. The lawsuit we filed is not in the criminal justice system. It’s a different ball game here. The victim is represented, and the focus is on the harm the defendants caused her. It is only in the civil system that a victim of sexual assault can achieve justice, and we plan to do just that."
Gilleon tells CBS 8 that his client continues to suffer from the ordeal and was informed of the District Attorney's decision prior to today's announcement.
“There's no doubt that multiple men had sex with her when she was extremely intoxicated as a 17 year old and she is suffering from PTSD for that,” he said. “That's the reality of it. Whether or not the district attorney thinks that's a crime is really secondary to our objective.”
Attorney for Former SDSU And Buffalo Bill Punter Matt Araiza Speaks Out
While the alleged victim continues with the civil suit, an attorney representing the former SDSU punter who was later cut by the Buffalo Bill, Matt Araiza, says his client is happy to put the criminal investigation behind him.
"As soon as I got the news from the DA, I contacted [Araiza] and gave him the good news. He was very happy," said attorney Kerry Armstrong.
Armstrong said that he did not speak to the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the case about why the office did not press charges.
"I think a big factor, and is just a guess...but the video that was uncovered from a different party right around this time where she was bragging about being 18 years old and talking about some other things that probably lead the DA into making this decision."
Added Armstrong, "I had many long talks with Matt Araiza...I think I have a pretty good lie detector so to speak...and I never not for even a second thought that he was lying to me about what happened that night."
Armstrong said that he believed the sex between Araiza and the then 17-year-old was consensual and that Araiza believed that she was older.
As for Araiza's return to professional football, Armstrong says he has been training in San Diego and that he is "pretty sure he will get back into the NFL eventually."
San Diego State University Response
Meanwhile, San Diego State University's President Adela de la Torre says her administration continues to investigate the allegations.
"I understand that this will be a difficult time for members of our collective community, but you should know that the District Attorney’s decision has no bearing on our ongoing student conduct investigation at SDSU, which continues," reads de la Torre's message which was issued after the DA announced its decision to not prosecute the case.
The university president urged anyone with information to come forward to help with the university's inquiry into the alleged rape.
Added President de la Torre, "At SDSU, I appreciate being part of a community of people – staff, student leaders, faculty, parents and families – who have developed or supported programs, training sessions, events, research initiatives and policies in support of a safer environment for all. My work and our work is not done and will continue."