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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Punter Matt Araiza Released by Bills After Rape Allegations Surface

  • Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates have been accused of rape, according to a lawsuit.
  • The civil complaint comes as police recently handed over the investigation over to the district attorney.

The Buffalo Bills released rookie punter Matt Araiza on Saturday, two days after Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates were accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit.

“We decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” Bills GM Brandon Beane said in a statement. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”

A woman, who was a 17-year-old high school student at the time of the alleged assault in the early morning hours of Oct. 17, was not identified in the lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court on Thursday.

As many as 20 others were allegedly involved in what was described in the lawsuit as a “horrific gang rape” that lasted more than an hour and left the woman “bloody and crying.”

Araiza, and his former teammates, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, have not been charged. 

Earlier this month, the investigation conducted by San Diego police — which includes information obtained from the cell phones of those at the party — was turned over to San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, a source with knowledge of the matter told Front Office Sports. 

A determination of whether the three players — along with others authorities may have identified — will face charges is expected to conclude within the next month. 

“This was a horrific crime, the kind of which happens all too often,” Daniel Gilleon, the woman’s attorney, said in a statement to FOS. “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.”

Araiza was 21 at the time of the alleged incident and was in his final season with the Aztecs, where he earned the name “Punt God” before he was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round in April. 

Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times, the first outlet to report the lawsuit, that he talked to witnesses at the party who contradict the woman’s allegations made against his client. 

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the newspaper on Thursday. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”

The woman went to a San Diego police precinct a day after the incident to report the assault. Days later,  detectives coached her through a recorded call with Araiza where he admitted to having sex with the woman, according to the lawsuit. 

At a certain point during the call with Araiza, the lawsuit states Araiza “changed his tone.”

“This is Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night,” Araiza said per the lawsuit before he hung up the phone. 

A message left with Araiza’s agent was not immediately returned Thursday.

Editors note: This story was originally published in Aug. 25.

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