ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed Thursday in California that accused Araiza and other San Diego State football players of raping a 17-year-old girl last October.
The lawsuit accuses Araiza, now 22, as well as teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, of committing what the plaintiff’s attorney described as gang rape in the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 after a Halloween party at the house Araiza lived in.
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement. “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.”
According to an email from the accuser’s lawyer, Dan Gilleon, the Bills were aware of the accusations against Araiza in late July, three weeks before punter Matt Haack was cut from the team.
A lawyer for Araiza told the Los Angeles Times that his investigator spoke to witnesses from the party who contradicted allegations made against Araiza in the lawsuit. (You can view a PDF of the lawsuit below.)
No charges have been filed against Araiza. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office in San Diego County said the police department submitted its investigation to them and it is currently under review. There is no timeline for that review.
The civil lawsuit states that the plaintiff believed Araiza handed her a drink during the party that “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances.” The lawsuit alleges Araiza took the girl into a bedroom where the other men were standing and threw her to the bed.
The plaintiff “went in and out of consciousness while she was being raped,” the lawsuit said, adding, “The men took turns having sex with her from behind while she lay face first on the mattress.”
The plaintiff also accused the players of filming the incident, which allegedly lasted an hour and a half. When the girl stumbled out of the room, she was bloody and crying, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also alleges that Araiza spoke with the plaintiff on the phone next day while detectives from the San Diego Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit listened to the call. The lawsuit claims Araiza confirmed having sex with the plaintiff, but later changed his tone and said he didn’t remember anything that happened that night.
The Bills drafted Araiza – nicknamed “Punt God” for his impressive leg strength – in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He appeared to win the punting job when the Bills released incumbent punter Matt Haack on Monday. Haack later signed with the Colts.
The Bills play their final preseason game Friday at Carolina.
This case has been in the news for weeks, though no players had been named until Thursday when the suit was filed. In fact, the plaintiff and her attorney spoke with our station in San Diego earlier this month, criticizing the timeline of SDSU’s investigation into the October incident. You can watch that video below.
You can view a PDF of the lawsuit below. (If you can’t see the PDF properly, click here.)
This is a developing news story, check back for updates.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.