A year later, San Diego State football rape allegation no closer to resolution
Editor's Note: The following story includes a description of a sexual assault, which some readers may find disturbing.
Day by day.
That's how lawyer Dan Gilleon says his client is coping a year after she reported being raped at a Halloween party near the San Diego State University campus.
"She's just trying to get through this emotional trauma that she has to deal with every day," he said.
The trauma started on Oct. 17, 2021, when the woman was 17 years old. She said she was taken to a room in the back of the party house and repeatedly raped by several men.
Resources at SDSU for sexual assault victims
• SDSU Counseling & Psychological Services: (619) 594-5220 (non-emergency)
• Counseling Access & Crisis Line: (888) 724-7240, www.sa.sdsu.edu/cps/
• Student Health Services, Calpulli Center: (619) 594-5281, shs.sdsu.edu/index.asp
• SDSU Police Department: (619) 594-1991
• Center for Community Solutions: (888) 385-4657 (bilingual rape crisis hotline), ccssd.org
KPBS is not identifying the woman because she is a victim of sexual assault.
The woman reported the rape the next day, but SDSU remained silent on the matter until the Los Angeles Times broke the story in June. The university said it was asked not to start its own Title IX investigation until San Diego police had completed theirs. That happened at the end of July.
The police then handed the case over to the District Attorney’s (DA) office, where it remains today with no criminal charges filed.
Meanwhile, Gilleon said, the young woman, who is now 18, has been repeatedly harassed with hate mail sent to her home. She's had to ask her brother to change her social media accounts passwords so she wouldn't be tempted to scroll for updates on the case.
"The hate mail that she got recently did not come as a result of media coverage," Gilleon said. "She was getting this stuff early on after the rape occurred. So these are people that either are the rapists themselves or their friends. And so they knew who she was."
He said this is the price women pay when they come forward to report a rape.
Gilleon also said the DA's office has been dragging its feet, and his client is not hopeful charges will be filed.
“She's really not really expecting much out of the criminal justice system anymore,” he said.
In late August, the woman filed a civil lawsuit naming Matt Araiza, Nowlin "Pa'a" Ewaliko and Zavier Leonard as her attackers. All three were on the Aztecs football team at the time of the attack. Araiza was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in April but was cut when the lawsuit was filed. Leonard was cut from the SDSU football team around the same and Ewaliko left the program after the spring 2022 semester.
Mark Deniz, a former San Diego County prosecutor with nearly 10 years with the DA's office, said rape cases are complicated. He said the DA won't be pressured to file charges until it is ready.
“I would imagine that they're wanting to get it out with as much diligence as possible. I think there's also the mounting pressure that the victim needs their day in court as well," he said. "And I know that the DA's office are well aware of that, and the sex crime unit is very sensitive to that."
It's not unusual for the DA's office to take this long to review the case, Deniz said, but it was unusual that the police investigation took as long as it did. It was nearly 10 months before the San Diego Police Department turned the case over to the DA's office for review.
But, Deniz thinks, ultimately, some kind of charges will be filed. Araiza's attorney, Kerry Armstrong, however, doesn't think so.
“Now, after what I've learned over the past several weeks," he said, "I'm not so sure the charges will even be filed against anybody else."
He said his investigators have uncovered some new evidence that would clear his client's name. Attorneys for Awaliko and Leonard have not responded to requests for comments.
KPBS is a broadcast service of San Diego State University.