Sexual Battery Charges Dropped Against Former NFL Player
May 18, 2023 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes Social Share
Known as the “Punt God” from his 2021 college football season, Matt Araiza has just avoided criminal penalties for an alleged rape case from California. The former Buffalo Bills player was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a minor at a party, before initiating a group rape.
This article will provide the case details, the reason for prosecutors dropping the case, the penalties for a sexual battery case in Florida, and the implications of false rape allegations.
What was the Case?
In October 2021, a 17-year-old girl attended a local high school party in San Diego. While there, the minor claimed to have met San Diego State football player Araiza, who was 21 at the time and allegedly supplied her with alcohol before committing sexual battery.
The girl accused Araiza of taking her to the sideyard, where he both orally and vaginally raped her. The minor claimed that afterward, Araiza took her into a bedroom where a group of men, including two other defendants in the case, “took turns having sex with her from behind” as she went in and out of consciousness.
The victim reported that the sexual battery lasted for nearly an hour and a half before she “stumbled out of the room bloody and crying.”
When the case became public, Araiza had just been drafted to the NFL Buffalo Bills three months prior. The alleged victim’s attorney contacted the counsel for the Bills on July 31st to inform them that their client was accusing their player of rape.
During a press conference in August 2022, the team announced they were cutting Araiza from the team.
“We don’t know all the facts, and that’s what makes it hard, but at this time we think it is the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation,” said the team’s general manager, Brandon Beane.
Prosecution Drops Criminal Charges
During a December 2022 meeting with the alleged victim, Trisha Amador, the deputy district attorney in San Diego, explained the decision to not proceed with criminal charges in the case.
According to prosecutors, they did not believe Araiza was still present at the party when the alleged group rape occurred. Amador stated that there was a timeline of the night established based on video clips from several partygoers. In addition, law enforcement conducted 35 witness interviews and examined DNA evidence.
Amador claimed that the State was unable to prove that the men involved in the alleged group rape knew the victim was a minor, or that she was too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity. San Diego prosecutors have now dropped the criminal charges they would have brought against Araiza.
The following is a statement from the office of Summer Stephan, the San Diego County district attorney regarding the case:
“Ultimately, 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. Prosecutors can only file charges when they ethically believe they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Nowlin Ewaliko, one of Araiza’s college teammates, was separately charged with a felony count of possessing child sex abuse material after the rape investigation led law enforcement to the discovery of unlawful pornography. He has pleaded not guilty.
Throughout the investigation, Araiza has denied the accusations against him. After hearing about the dropped charges, the former NFL player claimed he was excited to continue his football career.
Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s defense attorney, stated that her client did not force the victim into sex. “He is 100 percent adamant that he never forcibly raped this young lady or had any sexual relations with her while she was intoxicated, whether it be on alcohol or drugs,” Armstrong said.
The alleged victim’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, claimed the witness who told investigators that Araiza left the party prior to the gang rape was one of Araiza’s friends. He also accused the defendant’s attorneys of not providing corroborating information to support the friend’s account.
“I am never surprised when a prosecutor does not file sexual assault charges when the victim was intoxicated,” Gilleon said.
Penalties for Sexual Battery in Florida
Florida Statute Section 794.011 defines sexual battery as the oral, anal, or female genital penetration by, or in union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or female genital penetration by another by any object.
Under section (4)(a), any person 18 or older that commits sexual battery upon a victim between the ages of 12 and 17 without the person’s consent commits a first-degree felony. In Florida, a first-degree felony has penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years of imprisonment. Important: In Florida, the age of consent is 18-years-old. That means a minor between the ages of 12 and 17 consenting to sex does not count, as they are still considered minors without the ability to legally consent.
In addition to possible imprisonment and paying hefty fines, defendants convicted of a sex crime have extended consequences. Under Florida Statute Section 943.0435, a sexual offender is considered any person who meets this criteria—either being convicted of committing, attempting to commit, soliciting, or conspiring to commit, any of the following criminal offenses:
When a convicted felon is required to register as a sex offender, they carry the weight of that stigma for the rest of their lives. Registered sex offenders will carry that classification for life, making it difficult to find a place to live or find a job to work. To learn more about the different levels used to classify sex offenders, head over to our blog here.
You can also find more resources regarding Florida’s Sex Offender Registry here.
Repercussions of False Allegations
Sexual battery is an extremely consequential offense in Florida. When a person accuses someone of rape, the State will take those allegations seriously.
False rape allegations can result in consequences for both individuals involved, along with the rest of society. While it is essential to remember that false rape allegations are relatively rare compared to actual cases of sexual assault, it is crucial to address the dangers of a false accusation. False rape accusations can cause the following:
- Undermine genuine victims – False rape allegations undermine the credibility of actual victims of sexual assault. When a false allegation gains attention like in the case above, it can contribute to the perception that all rape accusations are questionable.
- Damage to the accused person – There are severe personal, professional, and social consequences for the individuals falsely accused. The accused person may face damage to their reputation, loss of employment, strained relationships, and emotional distress. In some cases, defendants are incarcerated for false allegations, resulting in years of their lives lost spent in prison.
- Diversion of resources – False rape allegations can divert valuable resources including law enforcement personnel, time, and finances which could have been used in a legitimate investigation.
- Legal system strain – False reports of rape can burden the legal system by adding to the already substantial workload. Investigating such cases requires significant time and effort, which could be better utilized in handling actual instances of sexual assault.
- Destroy public trust – False accusations of rape or sexual assault can lead to a lack of trust in the criminal justice system and discourage the reporting of serious cases. False accusations can lead to skepticism and disbelief when real victims come forward, which can further perpetuate the cycle of underreporting.
Important: Pumphrey Law Firm stresses the importance of approaching discussions of false rape allegations with sensitivity and avoiding generalizations.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for a sex crime in Florida, contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
When it comes to accusations of rape, the consequences are too severe to take the charges lightly. If you’ve been arrested for sexual battery or another sexual offense in Florida, it is in your best interest to speak with a legal professional. A Tallahassee, Florida criminal defense attorney can assist by reviewing all case details, building your case a strong defense, and fighting to get your charges lessened or dropped completely.
Pumphrey Law Firm represents individuals in Tallahassee and the surrounding Florida areas for any criminal offenses. Contact Don Pumphrey and his team at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website for a free consultation.
Written by Karissa Key