Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza has been accused of having partaken in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in October 2021 while he was a student at San Diego State the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement released Thursday night. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case legal, we will have no other comment at this point.”
Araiza, who was picked in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft and was just given the Bills’ punting job earlier in the week after he won a competition with Matt Haack, was named in a civil lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court along with former teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.
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Araiza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, was contacted by the Times and he said he hadn’t reviewed the complaint but called the rape accusation false. He said his investigator spoke to witnesses from the party where the alleged incident occurred who contradicted the allegations against Araiza.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”
The Bills left Buffalo Thursday bound for Charlotte where they will play their final preseason game Friday night against the Panthers.
Araiza is with the team, but it is unknown whether the Bills would dress him for the game, pending investigation of the matter.
The team cut Haack last week, and he just signed with the Indianapolis Colts. No other punters were in Buffalo’s training camp. This raised a question as to what the Bills knew about Araiza’s situation before they released Haack. It would indicate that they were satisfied that, based on their independent investigation, Araiza’s role in the alleged incident did not reach the level where they would decide to cut him.
It is clear they were unaware of what happened before they drafted him. Also, because the alleged incident took place before Araiza entered the NFL, he will not be subject to discipline from the league, meaning it will not impose fines or a suspension. The Bills, of course, could do that.
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The Times reported that San Diego State knew of the situation and it decided not to alert the campus community and did not immediately launch its own investigation.
In an email to the Democrat and Chronicle, La Monica Everett-Haynes, Ph.D, Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at San Diego State, clarified the school’s timeline.
“San Diego Police Department (SDPD) led the investigation into the alleged sexual assault, as the report was off campus involving a victim who is not an SDSU student,” Everett-Haynes wrote. “SDPD informed SDSU of its active investigation in October 2021, and formally requested that the university not initiate its own investigation. SDSU agreed to comply with the criminal investigation to avoid compromising SDPD’s efforts to identify suspects, which would allow for prosecution at the highest possible levels of the law.
“On July 22, SDPD confirmed that SDSU could proceed with its own conduct-related process without compromising SDPD’s criminal investigation. The university has since begun its investigative process, according to California State University systemwide policy. The university has been exploring potential policy violations and will be reviewing all known and confirmed information and evidence through the lens of SDSU and CSU policies, to include CSU those related to discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, violence.”
None of the three football players have been arrested or charged and San Diego police did not publicly identify any suspects before the lawsuit was filed. The Times reported that detectives only recently submitted their investigation to the San Diego County district attorney’s office to determine whether charges should be filed.
The Times reported that the alleged victim, who is now 18, spoke out publicly for the first time last month. She said she was traumatized and had to finish up her senior year of high school online. In the lawsuit, she said she had sex with Araiza outside the home where the party was being held, and then was brought inside where she was repeatedly raped. She said she went in and out of consciousness but remembers moments as the men took turns assaulting her.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit, Dan Gilleon, released a statement that read: “This was a horrific crime, the kind of which happens all too often. What makes these crimes different is not only that they were committed by self-entitled athletes. Just as awful as the crimes, for months, multiple organizations – SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney, and now the Buffalo Bills – have acted the part of enablers looking the other way in denial that my client deserves justice even if the defendants are prized athletes.”
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