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Monday, February 26, 2024

Sexual Assault Lawsuit That Led Bills to Release Punter Matt Araiza Dropped

  • According to his attorneys, the civil case filed against him last year was dismissed without any payment.
  • Araiza also dismissed the defamation case he filed against the accuser.
Matt Araiza
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza settled the lawsuit that derailed his NFL career — and Araiza did so without paying anything to the woman who accused him of sexual assault. 

Araiza was released days before the 2022 season when the woman, identified as Jane Doe, accused Araiza and others of rape at an October 2021 party near San Diego State University. Last December, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office declined to charge Araiza after a “thorough, thoughtful, and careful” review of the evidence.

“While we are here celebrating this victory with Matt and his family, the win is bittersweet,” Araiza’s attorneys Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush said in a statement to Front Office Sports. “Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last 16 months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back.

“Matt was and has always been innocent. The case is over, and Matt has prevailed. He now has the full intention of returning to the NFL in hopes of resuming a successful punting career.”

A defamation lawsuit Araiza filed against his accuser was also dismissed, according to Semerdjian and Bush. 

“Matt is not paying the plaintiff any money and he is reserving his right to pursue the plaintiff’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, and his law office for the harm that they have caused him,” the two attorneys said.

A message left with Gilleon was not immediately returned.

In the months after the allegations became public via the lawsuit, details that questioned the accuser’s claims — including whether Araiza was even at the party — came out. The accuser was 17 at the time of the alleged incident. 

“I can tell you that I do not have anything that allows me to file charges,” San Diego County deputy district attorney Trisha Amado told the accuser in December 2022 before it was announced Araiza would face no charges. 

Semerdjian and Bush said that there was “exonerating video evidence that was uncovered of the incident” along with depositions “over the course of the last year which confirmed his innocence.”

An investigation by SDSU, where the 2022 sixth-round draft pick earned the nickname “Punt God” on the Aztecs’ football team, also concluded its investigation into the incident and found no wrongdoing by Araiza.  

“We cannot overstate the importance to our system of justice of the presumption of innocence,”  Semerdjian and Bush said. “Matt has always maintained his innocence, despite the public outcry that resulted when he was falsely accused of crimes and civil assault.”

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