Much has been made about comments made by prosecutors to the alleged victim in the incident involving former Bills punter Matt Araiza. The alleged victim makes very little of the conclusion that charges ultimately weren’t filed due to evidence supporting a conclusion that Araiza was not present when an alleged gang rape occurred.
USA Today spoke separately with Araiza and the alleged victim. They sharply disagree on the impact of the 101-minute recorded meeting between prosecutors, the alleged victim, and her lawyer.
Per the new article, Araiza and his agent, Joe Linta, have sent the audio to roughly 20 teams, in an effort to get Araiza another opportunity in the NFL.
“I know the teams know the true facts,” Araiza told USA Today. “They’ve heard the audio. They know this isn’t true. It’s that we need the public to understand as well. Because I think teams have a fear that if they sign me, there will be a little bit of backlash because the public has been told things that aren’t true.”
One way to help reduce the backlash perhaps could be to make the audio available for public consumption. It Araiza and Linta are able to give it to roughly 20 teams, they also can release it for media to review, analyze, and/or scrutinize.
The reaction to the tape might not be universal.
“I don’t think it exonerates anybody,” the alleged victim told USA Today.
Per USA Today, the recording refers to “nine brief video clips of the woman’s sexual encounters” on the night in question. Araiza claims the recording is “huge.”
The alleged victim claims that she was too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity, and that the video clips, “show only a fraction” of what transpired. She said the video accounts for roughly 30 seconds of events that lasted more than 90 minutes.
“I just don’t think that’s fair at all to look at these short clips that were already way into this assault already happening and make a judgment on that and say that that was consensual,” she told USA Today.
Araiza admitted to having sex with the woman outside the house where the gang rape allegedly occurred. In the lawsuit, the alleged victim claims Araiza led her inside and threw her down on a bed.
“He should face accountability for what he did and what he admitted to doing,” the alleged victim said. “It was wrong. I was 17 and I was drunk, regardless of whether the DA was able to prove. It was wrong.”
Despite her age, the prosecutor told the alleged victim that it could not be proven Araiza and the others accused of having sex with her that they knew she was younger than 18. In California, it is a defense to statutory rape if the accused reasonably believed the alleged victim was at least 18.
“I didn’t say my age at all and nobody asked me,” the alleged victim told USA Today. “Matt didn’t ask me. None of the guys asked me. Nobody at the party asked me, so I just wasn’t prompted and I didn’t answer.”
Ultimately, prosecutors don’t like to take to trial cases that they believe can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That very high bar, which was prominently on display in the O.J. Simpson case, regularly influences the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
It was a factor last year with the Deshaun Watson cases. The prosecutor admitted that she ultimately deferred to other vehicles for the victims securing justice, including their civil lawsuits.
In this case, the civil lawsuit against Araiza will continue. As we previously have explained, there’s no NFL rule or policy that would result in discipline or paid leave, given that he will not be charged criminally — regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.
It’s now for the teams to balance the significance of the punting position and how well Araiza can be expected to perform it at the NFL level against the potential consequences of giving him a roster spot. It’s a matter of assessing the benefits from a football standpoint versus the costs from a P.R. perspective.
Whether that’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. It’s the way it is, especially since Araiza plays a position with an overabundance of individuals who can perform the duties of the job to an acceptable degree.
If, in contrast, Araiza were a high-end quarterback, he’d already be on a team. He probably wouldn’t have even been cut in the first place.