The Buffalo Bills are still dealing with the fallout from their handling of former player Matt Araiza, who was allegedly involved in the gang-rape of a minor last year while attending San Diego State University.
Buffalo selected Araiza in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the 180th overall pick. He earned the starting spot on August 22 when the team released veteran shortstop Matt Haack. Araiza was also the holder during Buffalo’s field goals and extra point attempts.
Araiza, 22, was released Saturday after the alleged victim filed a lawsuit Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.
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Here’s everything you need to know about it:
What are the charges against Araiza?
A civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court alleges that Araiza sexually assaulted an intoxicated 17-year-old high school senior outside an October 2021 off-campus party at the home where Araiza lived before bringing her to a room where she was allegedly attacked by several men. According to the complaint, Araiza, who was 21 at the time, allegedly gave the victim a drink she believed “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicants” despite saying she was in high school.
No criminal charges have been filed pending the ongoing investigation, which San Diego police have turned over to the district attorney.
What was the initial response of the bills?
On Thursday night, after the civil suit was filed, the Bills issued a statement, saying they were “conducting a thorough review” of the allegations after “recently” learning of them and would not comment further.
Buffalo then played its final preseason game Friday on the road against the Carolina Panthers, eventually losing the game, 21-0. As news of the lawsuit broke, the Bills faced mounting pressure and kept Araiza out of the game, despite the fact that he traveled with the team to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
After the game, Bills coach Sean McDermott addressed the issue and said he “didn’t feel it was right” to play Araiza.
“It’s a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day,” McDermott added. “That’s the goal is to find the truth and do the right thing. That’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and heart: Learn the truth, as best I can, and do the right thing.”
Did the bills contact the victim or their attorney?
According to the victim’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon, Buffalo did not.
“They didn’t do an investigation,” Gilleon told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “I mean you can’t investigate when you don’t even ask the main witness what happened.
“There are two people involved. You need to talk to both of them.”
Did the Bills release Araiza?
Yes. The Bills made the announcement Saturday night, two days after the civil suit was filed.
“The last 48 hours have been very difficult, for a lot of people. They’ve been very difficult,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at a news conference Saturday. “We sympathize with this whole situation, all the parties involved. This young woman, what she went through. You feel really bad for this whole situation. Ultimately, this is a legal situation — we don’t know all the facts. That’s what makes it difficult.
“But right now, we just think it’s the best move for everyone to step away from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on this, so we’ll part ways there.”
When did they find out about the charges bills?
Beane admitted Saturday night that the franchise was made aware of the allegations against Araiza as early as July. Beane said he could not recall whether Buffalo first learned of the allegations when Gilleon, the victim’s attorney, informed Buffalo’s public defender in July or whether the team heard about it from Araiza himself. Beane emphasized, however, that members of the Bills’ front office spoke to Araiza about the matter around the time the victim’s advocate approached the franchise.
“We were trying not to rush to judgement” Beane said Saturday. “Obviously, Matt’s version was different. You want to give everybody as much process as you can. We’re not judge and jury.”
In any case, the Bills at least became aware of the allegations a month before they released veteran player Matt Haack on Aug. 22, officially handing the job to Araiza.
What happened when the alleged victim’s attorney hit the bills in July?
On July 31, Gilleon emailed Bills general counsel Kathryn D’Angelo and said he was representing the woman who accused Araiza of gang-raping her, according to a copy of the email obtained by USA TODAY Sports .
Gilleon said he spoke with D’Angelo by phone the next day.
“I had a conversation with (D’Angelo),” Gilleon said. “Extended conversation. He didn’t ask many questions. I just talked too much.
“She said she’d get back to me and never did. And then I followed up with an email saying, ‘Hey, two weeks ago you said you’d get back to me. You didn’t.” And still no answer.”
What was the reaction to Araiza’s release?
Gilleon blasted the Bills for their handling of Araiza’s employment with the team just hours after he was released Saturday.
“The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young player after failing so badly in their response to our allegation: they ignored us, as if what I warned them about could be avoided if they just kept their heads in the sand,” Gilleon stated. he said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. “That’s what stimulants do.”
“My client’s life was forever scarred in October 2021, but she handled herself with grace and dignity. Not once did she express to me a desire to hurt her attackers out of revenge or hatred. She never asked for a pound of flesh. . The question was what kind of justice could save other young women from the hell she experienced.”
Did Araiza say anything on the matter?
While still a member of the Bills and after being held out of the exhibition game against the Panthers, Araiza released a statement Friday denying any wrongdoing.
“The facts of the incident are not what is presented in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports by his agent, Joe Linda. “I’m looking forward to quickly achieving the record.”
Then, after being released Saturday, Araiza released another statement, this one through his attorney, Kerry Armstrong.
“Matt is very disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played poorly, but because of false allegations made against him by a young lady and her attorney,” Armstrong wrote in the statement to USA TODAY Sports. “Hopefully he’ll be back in the NFL soon. He deserves it as he’s the hardest working 22-year-old I know.”
Contributors: Jarrett Bell, Cydney Henderson, Josh Peter
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bills release punter Matt Araiza amid rape allegation