Just days after the Buffalo Bills named Matt Araiza, a.k.a “The Punt God,” as the team’s new starting punter, a civil lawsuit was filed on Thursday, August 25 accusing the rookie and two San Diego State University football players “of gang raping a 17-year-old girl last year at an off-campus party,” according to The Los Angeles Times‘ Colleen Shalby and Robert J. Lopez.
Araiza, 22, was “accused of having sex with the minor outside the home and then bringing her inside to a room where she was repeatedly raped. The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges the then-high school senior went in and out of consciousness but remembers moments as the men took turns assaulting her,” the newspaper said.
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In addition to Araiza, Zavier Leonard, who’s listed as a redshirt freshman for the San Diego State football team, and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, who is not on the current roster, were named in the lawsuit.
Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s lawyer, told The Los Angeles Times that “he hadn’t reviewed the complaint but called the rape accusation false. He said his investigator spoke to witnesses from the party who contradict the allegations against Araiza.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”
According to Shalby and Lopez, “no arrests have been made, and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects. Detectives recently submitted their investigation to the San Diego County district attorney’s office to determine whether charges should be filed.”
Warning: The rest of this article includes graphic descriptions of violence, rape and sexual assault.
According to the Lawsuit, the Gang Rape Took Place in October 2021
The victim in the lawsuit, referred to as Jane Doe, according to the Times, is now 18. “She said she was traumatized and had to finish up her senior year of high school online,” Shalby and Lopez reported.
“The off-campus party started on Oct. 16 and the assault, according to the lawsuit, occurred in the early hours of Oct. 17. In her lawsuit, the woman said she had already been drinking with friends when they arrived at the party on Rockford Drive, and Araiza, who lived at the home, gave her a drink. She believes the drink ‘not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances,’ the complaint said,” per the Times.
“According to the lawsuit, the teen told Araiza she was a high school student and, even though he could see she was highly intoxicated, he took her outside and told her to perform oral sex, then had sex with her. Then Araiza took her to a bedroom where Leonard, Ewaliko and at least one other man were, the complaint alleged, and threw her down on the bed face first. The lawsuit said she was raped for an hour and a half until the party was shut down.
“During the assault, she noticed a light as if someone was taking a cellphone video, according to the complaint. The teen ‘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.'”
The Young Woman Shared Images Showing Bruises from the Alleged Assault
The young woman in the lawsuit, following her initial interview, exclusively shared photos with CBS 8 back in July, “depicting injuries to her neck and legs that she said were the result of the assault,” as stated by the new site’s reporter, David Gotfredson.
“I know I was not at fault. I know being a 17-year-old girl, almost unconscious 90% of the time in a room with several guys, bloody and going in and out of consciousness is not something that was consensual,” she told CBS 8. “It scares me to know that these students are still at this school. I just really fear for what could happen if they never face any consequences for what they did.”
According to CBS 8, “the alleged victim reported the crime to San Diego police two days later and underwent sexual assault DNA testing at the hospital. The results of the DNA testing have not been made public.”
Araiza’s attorney told the Times that “he does not believe the teen was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
The Bills Put Out an Official Statement in Regard to the Lawsuit Against Araiza
Shortly after the Los Angeles Times article was published, WKBW reporter Matthew Bové tweeted the following statement on behalf of the Bills franchise:
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021. 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.”
Araiza was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 draft and beat out veteran punter Matt Haack for the starting job. Haack signed with the Indianapolis Colts on August 25.
After seeing the Bills’ statement, ESPN’s Mina Kimes tweeted, “Incredibly disturbing. The Bills say they “conducted a thorough examination of this matter”–as always, it bears asking what that actually entailed.”
Dan Gilleon, the lawyer who filed the civil suit, put forth the following statement to ESPN: “This was a horrific crime, the kind of which happens all too often. What makes these crimes different is not only that they were committed by self-entitled athletes. Just as awful as the crimes, for months, multiple organizations — SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney, and now the Buffalo Bills — have acted the part of enablers looking the other way in denial that my client deserves justice even if the defendants are prized athletes.”
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