NFL player Matt Araiza released by Buffalo Bills amid sexual assault complaint in San Diego

San Diego State’s Matt Araiza at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis in March. (Steve Luciano/Associated Press)

The Buffalo Bills on Saturday said they were releasing punter Matt Araiza from the team, two days after a civil lawsuit accused him and two other former San Diego State University football players of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl last year at an off-campus party. .

Araiza, 22, whose powerful and accurate kick in college earned him the nickname ‘Punt God’, was accused of bringing the teenager into a room during the party where they repeatedly raped her.

The suit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges the then-high school senior was in and out of consciousness, but recalls moments as the men took turns attacking her.

The Times reported on the allegations on Thursday.

In a news conference, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said the past 48 hours since the allegations surfaced have been difficult for everyone involved, including the teenager at the center of the lawsuit.

“We just think it’s the best move for everybody to move on from Matt,” Beane said Saturday.

The other men named in the civil complaint are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. Leonard was previously named to the university’s fall football roster as a freshman, but the university said in a statement Saturday that he is no longer on the team. Evaliko was on the team last year as a freshman but is not on the current roster.

Araiza and the other men have not been charged with crimes related to the charges. San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects or released other key details about their criminal investigation into the alleged rape, which has been turned over to county prosecutors, who will decide whether to file charges.

According to her lawsuit, the young woman who alleged the rape allowed police to record phone calls she had with the men named in the lawsuit, who she “had determined were present in the room when the rape occurred.”

She previously told The Times that she finally wanted her alleged rapists to be held accountable for their actions.

“I really want to see some kind of accountability,” he said Thursday after the lawsuit was filed. “I feel like I’ve dealt with enough of the consequences of what happened that day.”

On Saturday, Araiza’s attorney Kerry Armstrong released a statement saying, “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. I hope he returns to the NFL soon. He deserves it as he is the hardest working 22-year-old I know.”

In an interview Thursday with The Times, Armstrong said his investigator has spoken with party witnesses who dispute the allegations against Araiza.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong said, adding, “There’s no doubt in my mind” that Araiza did not rape the teenager.

Calling the Bills’ decision to cut Araiza “the self-administered justice he deserves,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon, criticized Araiza and Armstrong in a statement Saturday.

Gilleon said that after telling Armstrong the woman was not interested in being paid by Araiza, Armstrong nevertheless offered a sum of money to settle the matter, which the woman declined.

The shakedown charge, Gilleon said, was “utterly inhumane and astonishingly stupid.”

Gilleon also said he had reached out to the Bills organization to inform them of the allegations against Araiza, but had been rebuffed.

“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 kept their heads in the sand. what the activators do,” Gilleon said.

Araiza’s name appeared in connection with the rape allegation in at least one report made by student athletes within days of the party to San Diego State officials through an anonymous campus reporting system, according to internal campus records reviewed by Times.

According to the lawsuit, the teenager told Araiza she was a high school student and, even though he could see she was very drunk, sexually assaulted her outside the party. Araiza then took her to a bedroom where Leonard, Ewaliko and at least one other man were, according to the complaint, and threw her face first onto the bed. The lawsuit said he was rushed for an hour and a half until the party closed.

The latest developments come as San Diego State continues to face criticism following a Times investigation that the university decided not to notify the campus community about the alleged gang-rape and waited more than nine months to launch its own investigation.

Campus officials said police asked them not to take any action that would jeopardize their investigation and that they were not required by federal law to send out a crime alert. After the Times reported, San Diego State officials began posting some information about the October incident on a campus website.

Campus officials said they asked San Diego police to provide the teenager with information about Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination at federally funded educational institutions. The university, however, has not responded to repeated questions from The Times about why campus police did not give that information directly to her father.

The young woman has publicly criticized the handling of her case by the city’s police department, which she believed stopped after the new year, as well as the inaction of San Diego State. Her father, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said he shared his daughter’s account with campus police three days after the party and was never given information that would have helped him file a complaint that could to trigger a Title IX investigation.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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