A former San Diego State University football player on Thursday pleaded not guilty to possession of child pornography in a count that unfolded as police investigated a rape allegation against him and two teammates.
Prosecutors declined to press charges in connection with the alleged rape, but a separate investigation led to the case against 20-year-old Nowlin Ewaliko.
If convicted of the crime, he faces a possible prison sentence of up to three years. Ewaliko is free on $200,000 bail.
According to a criminal complaint, prosecutors allege that he possessed child pornography on August 20 last year. No further details on the allegations were released during Ewaliko’s arraignment in San Diego Superior Court.
“We follow the evidence where it leads us,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement Thursday. “In this case, an independent investigation led to the discovery of the child abuse material and a separate investigation was launched.”
After Thursday’s hearing, Ewaliko’s lawyer, Marc Carlos, said he was unable to comment on the allegations because he had not received any information about evidence in the case.
Carlos said his client has no criminal record and hopes to get his life back on track.
“He’s doing what any young man would do to make sure his life is headed in the right direction,” Carlos said.
San Diego police said last week they had obtained an arrest warrant for Ewaliko, who surrendered Thursday. He was jailed and placed on bail the same day.
Search warrants related to the rape investigation released last week provided insight into the case against Ewaliko. According to one of the warrants requested on April 11, police had found videos and images depicting possible child pornography on an Apple iCloud account they said was linked to Ewaliko.
“I saw that one of the images was preadolescent child sexual abuse material depicting sexual victimization by an unknown adult,” one detective wrote in a affidavit.
According to police, the case unfolded as they were investigating a report from a young woman who said she was raped in 2021 – when she was 17 – during a Halloween party in the College District, near the state of San Diego . In a lawsuit, she named former Aztec player Matt Araiza and former Red Shirt rookies Zavier Leonard and Ewaliko as her alleged attackers, who all said any contact they may have had with the young woman was consensual.
The police investigated the case for several months. In December, the district attorney’s office announced that it had declined to file criminal charges and offered “no avenue to a possible criminal conviction.”
The woman’s civil suit is scheduled to appear in San Diego Superior Court in October.