Buffalo Bills gambler Matt Araiza has been charged in a civil lawsuit with participating in last year’s gang rape of a teenager at an off-campus party along with two other soccer players at San Diego State University.
Araiza denied the accusation. “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” he said in a statement shared Friday night. Twitter by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
“I’m looking forward to setting the record straight soon,” said the player.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the San Diego County Supreme Court, accuses Araiza, along with Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, of sexually assaulting a then 17-year-old girl at a Halloween house party at a house where Araiza had lived.
The lawsuit alleges that the 17-year-old, who is identified only as Jane Doe, had been drinking with friends when they went to the Halloween party on October 17. It said she was “perceivably intoxicated” when she arrived at the event.
Later, after being separated from her friends, the girl was approached by Araiza, then a San Diego state student, who offered her a drink, the lawsuit said. “Don’t see Araiza pouring her drink, but she accepted the drink and started consuming it,” the lawsuit said. According to information and belief, this drink not only contained alcohol, but also other intoxicating substances.’
According to the complaint, the teenager told Araiza, who was 21 at the time, that she was in high school. She claimed he then took her to a side yard, where he asked her to have oral sex with him and then had sex with her, before taking her to a bedroom in the house.
According to the complaint, there were at least three other men in the room, including Leonard and Ewaliko. It claims the teen fell in and out of consciousness when she was raped, but said, “She does remember some moments of the horrific gang rape.”
About an hour and a half later, the lawsuit alleges that the teen “stumbled out of the room bloody and crying,” with her nose, navel, and ear piercings removed as well. She was bleeding from the vagina, the lawsuit alleges.
The teen told her friends what had happened and the next day reported it to the police and underwent a rape investigation, the lawsuit says.
According to the lawsuit, agents allowed the teen to contact the players through recorded exchanges, including a taped phone call with Araiza, in which the footballer confirmed he was having sex with her. However, when she asked him if they were having “real sex,” the complaint said that Araiza changed his tone, saying, “This is Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night.”
Araiza has been hailed as a “Point God” on the field for his punting abilities, while Leonard was previously on the San Diego state roster as a red shirt freshman offensive lineman, according to The Los Angeles Times. As of early Friday morning, Leonard’s name didn’t look like the schedule. Ewaliko was not named on this year’s roster but appeared on the school’s selection 2021 as a line of defense.
Kerry Armstrong, a lawyer for Araiza, said he was “working on the case for about six weeks” and said he is “looking forward to court”.
“I immediately had a private investigator come to the case. We interviewed witnesses who were in the house that night, including at least one of the victim’s friends who had come to the house with her that night,” the lawyer said. “Based on everything I’ve read, seen and heard, I don’t believe 100% that the Matt Araiza forcibly raped this girl or raped her while intoxicated, which is a crime in California.”
NBC News has contacted attorneys allegedly representing Leonard and Ewaliko. They did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Attorney Marc Xavier Carlos, who represents Ewaliko, according to The Los Angeles Times, told the paper he was unable to comment on the lawsuit and was still investigating what happened. He said his client is no longer in the state of San Diego. Attorney Jamahl Kersey, who is reportedly representing Leonard, told the paper he had not seen the lawsuit and was unable to comment.
Dan Gilleon, a lawyer for the woman who filed the lawsuit, called the alleged incident a “heinous crime, the kind that happens all too often”.
“What makes these crimes different is not just that they were committed by athletes who call themselves law,” Gilleon said in a statement. “As horrific as the crimes, multiple organizations—SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney, and now the Buffalo Bills—have played the role of enablers looking the other way in denial that my client deserves justice, even if the defendants are esteemed athletes.”
San Diego State University said in a statement that the university “takes allegations of sexual assault seriously.”
“Because this involves an active university investigation and given privacy laws (FERPA), the university cannot provide specific details about its investigation,” it said. “However, SDSU’s independent research process remains active and continues under California State University’s system-wide policy.”
“If a student is found to be violating the student code of conduct, as a result of a thorough investigation, disciplinary action will include, but are not limited to, suspension, discharge or expulsion,” the school said.
The SDSU said in a pronunciation It published online Thursday that the San Diego Police Department had asked the school not to take any action in the case, including opening an investigation and conducting interviews, so as not to “endanger its own criminal investigation.”
“As members of the media have now reported on the SDPD investigation, the university is providing information about its actions, its resources and its commitment to support a thorough and complete police investigation, which every victim deserves,” the school said.
The university said police confirmed on July 22 that SDSU could “continue its own conduct-related process without jeopardizing the SDPD’s criminal investigation.”
The Buffalo Bills said in a statement, “We were recently notified of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021.”
“Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have thoroughly investigated this matter. As this is an ongoing civil matter, we will not have any other comments at this time,” the team said.
The NFL said it was “aware of the matter, but will decline further comment at this time.” Since the incident allegedly took place before Araiza was drafted, it would not be subject to any particular code of conduct for NFL personal conduct.
Araiza was not expected to play against the Panthers in the team’s preseason finals Friday night, according to the NFL. Backup quarterback Matt Barkley was placed in his place.
The The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the San Diego Police Department had filed its investigation with its office and said it was under review.
“There is no timeline for how long it will take,” he said.
The San Diego Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.