BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Bills benched punter Matt Araiza in their Friday night preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, after he was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl at a Halloween party in October 2021.
Attorneys for both Araiza and his accuser, who is referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, spoke with News 4 via Zoom on Friday about the civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court in California.
The lawsuit accuses Araiza, now 22, of raping the 17-year-old girl with two San Diego State University teammates following a Halloween party at what is stated to have been Araiza’s home in the early morning hours of October 17, 2021.
“Based on everything I’ve seen and read, especially the reports my private investigator has dug up regarding talking to witnesses, I 100% do not believe that Matt Araiza ever forcibly raped this young lady or that he raped her via intoxication or alcohol or a combination of drugs or anything like that,” Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s criminal attorney, said.
The accuser’s attorney disputes Armstrong’s claims. The lawsuit claims his client was at the party and Araiza and other “current and former members of the San Diego State football team” forcibly raped her.
“No one is going to believe that version of the defense. I mean everyone is going to believe she was there, she was intoxicated and this guy had sex with her and she is four years younger than him. I mean that’s what happened. And he basically admitted it during the pretext call,” Dan Gilleon, the plaintiff’s civil attorney, said.
The lawsuit claims the accuser filed a report with police on Oct. 18 and completed pretext calls with authorities on Oct. 28. During the calls, the lawsuit alleges Araiza “confirmed having sex with Doe, even telling her she should get tested for STDs”.
In California, the legal age of consent is 18-years-old, according to CA Penal Code § 261.5 (2021). The lawsuit says Jane Doe was 17-years-old at the time of the alleged incident while Araiza was 21-years-old.
“In California, if the female or it could be a male is under age and is either 16 or 17 years old, and the defendant who reasonably had a good faith belief that she was 18, that’s a complete defense in California,” Armstrong said.
Gilleon responded saying his client cannot consent due to her age.
“She couldn’t consent because she was underage and she couldn’t consent because she was intoxicated. He knows this. Kerry Armstrong knows this that’s why he says, ‘Oh, she wasn’t intoxicated.’ Well, he doesn’t know anything. She clearly was intoxicated,” Gilleon added.
The Buffalo Bills said in a statement Thursday, “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.”
“I don’t know much about that [Bills internal investigation] at all. I have talked to the Bills on a few occasions regarding these allegations, but we haven’t spoken about that aspect of it at all,” Armstrong said.
Gilleon does not believe the Buffalo Bills conducted an investigation and he claims his client was never contacted to provide a statement for the investigation.
“Whatever quote on quote investigation the Bills did, it did not include talking to the two most important people on this planet about what happened. You can call it an investigation all you want, they didn’t do it,” Gilleon said.
According to an email from Gilleon, the Bills were made aware of the allegations as recently as late July, indicating that they knew about the accusations when they cut punter Matt Haack earlier this week, clearing the way for Araiza to be the team’s starting punter.
News 4 obtained a statement from Matt Araiza via his agent Friday:
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”Matt Araiza via Joe Linta
No criminal charges have been filed against Araiza. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office in San Diego County said the police department submitted an investigation and that it is currently under review.
Warning: The detailed accounts of alleged rape may be disturbing.
Warning: The interviews below with attorney Kerry Armstrong and attorney Dan Gilleon detail accounts of an alleged rape an may be disturbing.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.