Court unsealed warrants relating to SDSU rape investigation
Editor's Note: The following story includes a description of a sexual assault, which some readers may find disturbing.
San Diego Superior Court on Thursday unsealed 10 search warrants relating to the alleged rape of a young woman by members of the San Diego State University (SDSU) football team.
Several media outlets, including KPBS, sued to obtain the documents. The warrants showed police were looking for photos, videos and location data of cell phones at and around the house where the alleged rape happened.
They were also looking into social media accounts of members of the football team, including chat logs, private messages and any usernames they may have used.
The warrants also revealed that police were looking into two other men as possible suspects in the rape. Their names were redacted because the District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges in December 2022 saying there was not enough evidence for a conviction.
- Legal expert: Decision to not charge SDSU football players not black-and-white
- San Diego district attorney declines to press rape charges against SDSU football players
- Outside auditors will examine SDSU's handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints
- A look into SDSU athletes' sexual violence prevention training
- Students react to SDSU's handling of rape allegations
- Civil case accusing Matt Araiza of rape is unusual legal strategy, expert says
“The 10 search warrants in this case demonstrate the amount of investigative work that was done in order to pursue the truth,” the DA’s office said in an email statement. “The search warrants served their purpose in producing iCloud and other evidence, which allowed the thorough analysis by an expert DA Sex Crimes team to determine the viability of criminal charges under the law.”
Prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction and, the office said, the State Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct ethically required them not to file charges if a path to conviction is not viable.
According to the warrants, the young woman, identified only as Jane Doe, reported that she was taken to a backroom of a house on Rockford Drive on Oct. 16, 2021, and repeatedly assaulted by several men, three of whom were later named in a civil suit as Matt Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. All three were on the SDSU football team at the time.
The probable cause statement in the warrants includes reports that Doe may have had consensual sex with Ewaliko and Araiza, but Doe denies this.
During the course of the investigation, the warrants reveal a female athlete at SDSU came forward to police with information gathered from multiple people. The athlete, who was not at the party, told police that she heard that "six males raped a girl," but Araiza and Ewaliko had consent.
According to the warrants, she told police that she heard Doe was drunk and was flirting with both Araiza and Ewaliko before going into a room. She said she heard Doe "consented to both of the males," but four other men also went into the room.
Dan Gilleon, attorney for the young woman, said the judge who signed the order to unseal the warrants found probable cause that a crime was committed.
“The fact the DA didn't file charges changes nothing about the Court's decision,” he said in a text message. “It's important to remember that, unlike the Public Defender, a District Attorney is a politician, who doesn't want to risk tarnishing her record with cases she can't be guaranteed to win.”
The warrants also have summaries of the “pretext” calls — recorded calls between Doe, Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko where police listened in and directed Doe on what to say. In the summaries, all three men said Doe consented to having sex with them. All three said Doe did not seem intoxicated to them.
In an interview with KPBS last August, Doe said she did not consent to having sex with anyone and that the assault was very violent.
"They threw me down onto the bed, face down, and they took turns assaulting me from behind, other things in the mix," she said. "And I was bleeding everywhere. My piercings were ripped out. I had my belly button, my nose and my ear piercings."
Doe also said she was passing in and out of consciousness during the assault.
The warrants revealed that there were three reports made to SDSU’s anonymous reporting system saying that five football players raped an unconscious girl at a house party. One report claimed that the majority of the football team, including coaches, knew about the incident.
San Diego State has yet to conclude its Title IX investigation into the matter. The civil suit filed by the now 18-year-old woman is still ongoing.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said the affidavits in the warrants refuted many of the claims Doe made against his client.
“Many allegations in the lawsuit are in direct contradiction of what Gilleon’s client actually told the police,” he said in an email statement to KPBS.
“All of this information will help Araiza immensely in his civil lawsuit," he added.
Gretchen von Helms, a criminal defense attorney who is not a party to the case, said the affidavits help bolster the young woman’s civil case against the men accused.
"The warrants reveal that the young lady was hurt, was injured, and was wronged in some fashion," she said. "And so what the affidavits show supports the civil lawyer because the civil lawyer only needs probable cause — you know, 'more likely than not' — for him to win the civil case."
In a criminal case, prosecutors need to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Von Helms said the warrants show there was enough conflicting information that would make it hard for the DA to get a conviction.
"Because it indicates that he had relations with her outside of the house," she said. "So when she came out of the room inside the house, that's when she was bloody and bruised and she had told someone, another person, a friend, that she had had a consensual sexual encounter with another man.”
The attorneys for Leonard and Ewaliko did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Search warrants relating to the alleged rape of a young woman by members of the San Diego State University football team were unsealed by the San Diego County Superior Court yesterday. Then, we visit a ranch in East San Diego County where military families can go to spend time together and reconnect. And in our weekend preview, we have art made with the help of artificial intelligence, art made for and by kids and plenty of music.
KPBS is a broadcast service of San Diego State University