Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza, two San Diego State football players accused of gang raping minor in lawsuit

BUFFALO, NY — Bill’s rookie punter Matt Araiza was accused along with two others of raping a 17-year-old girl last year in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit obtained by ESPN alleges allegations against three current and former San Diego State Aztecs football players, including Araiza, who played for the team last season. The other men named in the complaint are Zavier Leonard, a redshirt freshman at San Diego State, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who was a freshman last season but is no longer on the list.

In the lawsuit, Araiza, 22, is accused of forcing the then high school senior to have sex with him outside at an off-campus party held at his apartment in the early hours of Oct. 17, 2021. The lawsuit states that Araiza then brought her into a room where there were at least three other men, including Leonard and Ewaliko. She was repeatedly raped for about an hour and a half before the party shut down.

Dan Gilleon, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, told ESPN that the Bills were not made aware of the allegations until late July, when he emailed the team’s representative.

In a statement Thursday, the Bills said they were “recently made aware of an October 2021 civil lawsuit filed against Matt. Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have thoroughly investigated this matter. As this is an ongoing civil proceeding, we will not comment further at this point.”

The NFL said in a statement that it was also aware of the incident but declined to comment. Because the alleged rape happened before Araiza was drafted, he would not be subject to the League’s personal conduct guidelines.

The Los Angeles Times first reported on the filing of the lawsuit.

It states that the minor, named Jane Doe, fell unconscious but recalled moments when the men took turns attacking her. The suit states that her nose, navel and ear piercings were pulled out during the acts and she was bleeding from her vagina.

Doe claims that Araiza was aware she was in high school. She claims he handed her a drink, but she didn’t see him pour it. There is speculation and information from Doe that it may have contained “intoxicating substances” other than alcohol.

Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, called the allegation false and told the Los Angeles Times his investigator spoke to witnesses from the party who disagree with statements in the lawsuit.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s with the Buffalo Bills now,” Armstrong said.

A day after the party, Doe reported the rape to the San Diego Police Department, who opened an investigation. No arrests have been made and the suspects have not been publicly identified, but detectives recently submitted their findings to prosecutors to determine whether charges should be filed, according to the Times.

According to the lawsuit, in a call from Doe to Araiza, arranged by detectives with the San Diego Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit, Araiza admitted to having had sex with Doe and confirmed that she should be tested for an STD. When she asked a more direct question about whether they had sex, Araiza changed his tone at the detectives’ request, saying that he couldn’t remember anything that happened that night.

“This was a horrific crime, as happens all too often,” Gilleon said in a statement. “What makes these crimes different isn’t just that they were committed by self-proclaimed athletes. Just as horrifying as the crimes several organizations have committed for months – SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney and now the Buffalo Bills – have played the role of enablers who look the other way and deny my client deserves justice, even if the defendants are highly respected athletes.

Araiza was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. He was officially named the team’s starter Monday over Matt Haack, who was the Bills’ punter last year. Haack was officially signed by the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34460423/buffalo-bills-punter-matt-araiza-two-san-diego-state-football-players-accused-gang-raping-minor-lawsuit Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza, two San Diego State football players accused of gang raping minor in lawsuit

Emma Bowman

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