Bills releases P Matt Araiza amid gang rape allegations

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Matt Araizawho led San Diego State to a record season before being drafted by the Buffalo Ticketsand two of his former Aztec teammates were charged in a civil lawsuit Thursday with raping a teenager at an off-campus party last fall.

On Saturday, the Bills released the rookie punter.

The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, charges Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko with gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at a house where Araiza lived.

The complainant, now 18, is identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe” because she was a minor at the time.

No arrests have been made and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects.

Leonard is listed on the San Diego State roster as a redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Arlington, Texas. Ewaliko is not on this year’s roster, but was on the 2021 roster as a Seattle defensive lineman.

A person familiar with the matter told the AP that the Bills were unaware of the allegations against Araiza in April. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not publicly commented on the allegations.

Executives from two different teams told the AP they learned of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the drafting process, but neither person knew the full extent of the allegations.

After the Bills declined multiple requests for comment on Friday, coach Sean McDermott was clearly shaken when he addressed the situation following a 21-0 preseason loss at Carolina.

“It’s an extremely serious situation. Just hard to get through. It’s not a situation that me or we take lightly,” he said. “I can tell you that my heart, thoughts and prayers go out to those involved. And that includes Matt. That includes both sides here. The victim and everyone involved.”

McDermott said he was surprised and shocked by some of the revelations that came out over the past day, and repeatedly stressed that the team had work to do. When asked what work needs to be done, he responded by saying, “It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day.”

McDermott said it was his decision not to play Araiza, saying he felt it was the wrong thing to do. While he said Araiza would return with the team, McDermott declined to answer a question about Araiza’s status on the roster.

Previously, the Bills’ only comment on the lawsuit came a day earlier saying they were aware of the allegations and conducted their own investigation.

“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement released by his agent, Joe Linta. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”

The lawsuit says the teenager had been drinking with friends when they decided to go to the party on October 17 and was “visibly drunk when she arrived”. She separated from her friends and was approached by Araiza who offered her a drink, according to the lawsuit. She believes the drink “contained not only alcohol, but also other intoxicants,” according to the complaint.

She told Araiza, who was 21 at the time, that she was a high school student, according to the lawsuit. She alleges he then drove her to a side yard where he asked her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her before taking her to a bedroom in the house. There were at least three other men in the room, including Leonard and Ewaliko, according to the complaint. The lawsuit states that Araiza threw the teenager on the bed and she passed out while being raped. He added, “but she remembers some moments from the horrific gang rape.”

After an hour and a half, the teenager “came out of the room bleeding and crying”, according to the complaint. Her nose, navel and ear piercings had been ripped out.

She immediately told her friends about the rape and the next day reported it to the police and underwent a rape examination, according to the lawsuit. Officers trained her to call Araiza, which she did 10 days later when detectives recorded it, according to the complaint.

During the call, Araiza confirmed he had sex with her, the lawsuit says, but when she asked him “And did we have actual sex?” he replied “It’s Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night”, and hung up.

“It was a horrific crime, which happens too often,” attorney Dan Gilleon said in a statement to the AP. Gilleon said this case is particularly egregious because it not only involved “self-proclaimed athletes,” but several organizations, from the university to the Buffalo Bills, “acted as facilitators who looked away to deny that my client deserves justice even if the defendants are renowned athletes.”

The Los Angeles Times first reported the lawsuit.

Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who is representing Araiza in the criminal investigation, called the allegations false based on the findings of an investigator he hired.

“I don’t 100% believe that he ever forcibly raped that girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that,” Armstrong told the AP. “It’s a shame she filed a civil suit. I think it’s a cash grab.”

Armstrong said the Bills were aware of the allegations and investigation into Araiza before the lawsuit was filed, as he has provided team updates since being retained by the punter a while ago. about six weeks.

“Matt Araiza is very upset about this, as you can imagine. He’s very disappointed,” Armstrong said. “But he will eventually have his day in court.”

Armstrong said he has been informed that police have largely completed their criminal investigation, which will then be reviewed by the district attorney to determine whether to press charges.

Marc Xavier Carlos, who is representing Ewaliko in an ongoing criminal investigation, and Jamahl Kersey, representing Leonard, told The Times they could not comment.

Reporting by Associated Press.

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