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Matt Araiza Released by Bills After SDSU Gang-Rape Allegations

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 27, 2022

Matt Araiza (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Rookie punter Matt Araiza was informed by the Buffalo Bills on Saturday that he would be released after he was accused of taking part in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl during his time at San Diego State.

General manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott spoke to the media about the decision:

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Bills have informed rookie punter Matt Araiza that he is being released, effective immediately. Araiza has been accused along with two others of gang raping a 17-year-old girl last year in a civil lawsuit filed on Thursday.

"I would say the last 48 hours has been very difficult for a lot of people," Beane told reporters on Saturday, per NFL.com. "It's been tough and we sympathize with this whole situation, all of the parties involved. This young woman, what she went through. You really feel bad for that whole situation, and ultimately this is a legal situation and we don't know all of the facts. That's what makes it hard, but at this time we just think it's the best move for everyone to move on from Matt, and let him take care of this situation and focus on that. So, we're going to part ways there.

"I know it's a question of when did we hear this or what was the timeline -- late July from her representative spoke to [Bills assistant general counsel Kathryn D'Angelo] and laid out some of the things that they were accusing Matt and others of. At that time, our process, we tried to be thorough and thoughtful. Not rush to judgement, and I would say it's not easy. You're trying to put facts around a legal situation, sometimes with limited information. So ultimately that's where we're at today with the decision."

Colleen Shalby and Robert J. Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reported the woman, who is now 18 and is listed as Jane Doe, filed a civil lawsuit Thursday saying Araiza and former Aztecs teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin "Pa'a" Ewaliko raped her at an off-campus party in October 2021.

The woman said she was drinking with friends when she arrived at a party at Araiza's home. She said Araiza knew she was a high school student when he offered her a drink, told her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her.

She said Araiza then took her into one of the house's bedrooms, where Leonard, Ewaliko and at least one other man threw her on the bed and raped her for an hour-and-a-half.

The lawsuit states she then "stumbled out of the room bloody and crying. Her nose, bellybutton and ear piercings had been pulled out, and she was also bleeding from her vagina," according to the Los Angeles Times report.

She contacted police the next day and was taken to the hospital for a rape exam.

Araiza's lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, called the allegations false and said he'd spoken with witnesses who contradicted the woman's allegations.

"It's a shakedown because he's now with the Buffalo Bills," Armstrong told the Los Angeles Times. He added, "there is no doubt in my mind" that Araiza didn't rape the woman.

Attorneys representing the other men in potential criminal proceedings told the Los Angeles Times they had no comment on the civil suit.

No one has been arrested and no criminal charges have been filed in the case. San Diego police detectives recently submitted their case to the district attorney's office, which will decide whether criminal charges will be pursued.

Tim Graham of The Athletic reported the Bills weren't aware of the allegations when they selected Araiza, who became known as the "Punt God" at San Diego State, in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. But they did reportedly learn of them before cutting fellow punter Matt Haack after a competition during training camp. Haack proceeded to sign with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.

"We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021," the Bills said in a statement. "Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no other comment at this point."

Armstrong told ESPN's Alaina Getzenberg that Araiza was "forthcoming" with the Bills about the allegation after an initial Los Angeles Times article about five San Diego State players being accused of rape. Araiza wasn't named in that initial June 3 report.

"I don't know how quickly after that, but it was after that [when Araiza alerted the Bills]," Armstrong said.

Buffalo opens the regular season Sept. 8 with a road game against the Los Angeles Rams.

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