NFL rookie punter Matt Araiza fired from Buffalo Bills after being charged in teenage gang rape trial
« This afternoon we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the right thing to do. Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games, » team general manager Brandon Beane said Saturday.
Araiza and two other current or former San Diego State University football players are accused of gang-raping the girl at a Halloween party last year, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the lawyer for the plaintiff identified in court documents as « Jane Doe ».
Araiza and his co-defendants, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin « Pa’a » Ewaliko, were on the San Diego State football team at the time of the alleged incident last October.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told CNN on Friday that his client did not rape the accuser.
« 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, » Araiza said in a statement released via of his lawyer.
Jane Doe says she attended a party in the San Diego area with friends, but was separated from them when she met Araiza, according to the claim. The filing further claims that Araiza « could observe that Doe was heavily intoxicated » and « handed him a drink anyway. »
« Doe informed Araiza that she was attending Grossmont High School. Araiza, who was 21, knew or should have known that Doe was underage, » the complaint states.
Araiza’s lawyer disputed that claim, saying: « He never used force against her. She was not visibly intoxicated. He did not hand her a drink with anything inside. »
The complaint says Araiza took the girl to a room where « there were already at least three other men in the room », including Leonard and Ewaliko, who were both at least 18 at the time.
« Doe was raped for about an hour and a half until the party was called off. Doe walked out of the venue sobbing and crying, » the complaint said.
The girl reported the alleged incident the following day to the San Diego Police Department and was examined for rape at a hospital, according to the lawsuit.
Nowlin « Pa’a » Ewaliko’s attorney, Marc Carlos, told CNN in a phone interview that he saw issues with Doe’s credibility and the circumstances in which she reported the event. « The filing of the civil suit is clearly an attempt to pressure the prosecutor into filing a complaint, » he said. Ewaliko is not enrolled at SDSU this semester, according to Carlos.
Zavier Leonard’s attorney, Jahmal Kersey, declined to comment but told CNN they were aware of the lawsuit.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said the investigation is under review, but did not say when a charging decision would be made.
The state of San Diego released a statement saying it « takes the sexual assault allegations seriously, » but was unable to release specific details about the case due to confidentiality concerns indicating that the allegations were still the subject of an « active academic investigation ». The statement further states that a violation of the university’s student code of conduct could potentially result in « suspension, dismissal or expulsion. »
The Buffalo Bills first became aware of the allegations in late July when they were contacted by a representative for the alleged victim, Beane said at a press conference on Saturday.
« The last 48 games have been very tough for a lot of people. It’s been tough and we sympathize with this whole situation, all parties involved, » Beane said.
« At the end of the day, it’s a legal situation. We don’t know all the facts and that’s what makes it difficult, but at the moment we just think it’s the best thing to do so that everybody move on from Matt and let him deal with this situation and focus on that, » Beane added. « So, we’ll split up there. »