Judge Braner denies Matt Araiza's request to sever his trial.

On Friday, Judge Braner denied Matt Araiza’s request to be tried separately from the other four defendants in the civil case filed by Jane Doe, who states she was gang raped by the former Aztec football players at an off-campus party on October 16, 2021. Araiza sought to have his trial proceed as originally scheduled on October 20th instead of waiting an additional four months to be tried with all of the defendants on February 16, 2024. The trial had been continued at the request of Jane Doe.

On August 31, 2023, Araiza’s attorneys, Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush, filed a motion to sever his case, writing that Araiza “has been unable to secure employment because of plaintiff’s false allegations. He seeks to maintain the October 20, 2023, trial date in hopes of clearing his name and getting an opportunity to play in this season with the NFL.” Nowlin Ewaliko, another defendant in the case, joined in the severance request. His attorney, Thomas Buckely, argued timing was also an issue for Ewaliko and that it was unfair to make him wait. In court, he told Judge Braner Ewaliko was red shirted as a freshman and received a scholarship to SDSU, but now has left the university and the only job he can obtain is a laborer position in Washington State.

Judge Braner took the matter under submission after hearing oral arguments from the attorneys and reading all court filings on the issue. Although Judge Braner announced at the court hearing on September 15th that he would be denying the request, at the time, he was still writing his legal ruling. The parties were simply left to wonder why he was denying the motion until Judge Braner released his written order. Here is what Judge Braner wrote:

“As to the other defendants, the court concludes that severance of the claims against them is not warranted. First, the court recognizes that some of Plaintiff’s allegations involve only Defendant Araiza (that he assaulted her outside the house), do not appear to implicate other defendants, and therefore likely involve evidence that is separate and distinct from the evidence related to Plaintiff’s group assault claims. Similarly, Defendant Araiza, unlike the other individual defendants, claims he was not in the room during the later sexual assault and that the evidence relevant to that claim is therefore separate and distinct from the evidence relevant to the events that later transpired in the room.

However, even if the court accepts this argument, there will still be substantial overlapping evidence.  Plaintiff’s overall credibility is a central issue in this case that pervades every aspect of her claims and each defendant’s defense, including Defendant Araiza’s. As a consequence, the evidence related to credibility (which is likely to be extensive) would necessarily be largely duplicative in a scenario where some issues are severed and tried earlier in a separate trial.  Moreover, there will be duplication of evidence as to damages, assuming any are found. This duplication does not promote efficiency.

Second, as to Defendant Araiza specifically, it is true he has garnered the most public attention and has borne the most obvious and severe consequences of this attention.  It is not disputed that Defendant Araiza lost his employment with the Buffalo Bills due to the claims being made against him in this case, and it is reasonable to infer that so long as the case against him persists, his employment prospects will be limited. However, the crux of the claim in terms of prejudice is that if he goes to trial earlier, he is likely to win, and if he wins, he will (or at least has a good chance to) be picked up by an NFL team before the current season ends. But this argument regarding prejudice is not supported by sufficient evidence to overcome the likely duplication of evidence and resulting inefficiencies described above. More specifically, there is no evidence that suggests, let alone demonstrates, that if Defendant Araiza goes to trial in October and wins, an offer to play for an NFL team will be forthcoming.

Accordingly, the motions to sever are denied.”

About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.

I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories and books about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows, including “48 Hours,” “Snapped,” and “The Dead Files,” and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.

I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon.

I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: https://www.aleidalaw.com.

Read about the gripping and unforgettable trials that I have covered in my latest books: