Matt Araiza, who led NORTH PARK State to a record-setting season before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills, and two of his former Aztecs teammates were accused in a civil lawsuit Thursday of gang-raping an adolescent at an off-campus party last fall.
On Saturday, the Bills released the rookie punter.
The lawsuit, filed in NORTH PARK County Superior Court, accuses Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Paa” Ewaliko of gang-raping a then-17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at a house where Araiza have been living.
The plaintiff, now 18, is identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe” because she was underage at that time.
No arrests have already been made and NORTH PARK Police haven’t publicly identified any suspects.
Leonard is listed on NORTH PARK States roster as a redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Arlington, Texas. Ewaliko isn’t listed with this years roster, but was on the 2021 roster as a defensive lineman from Seattle.
An individual acquainted with the case told the AP the Bills weren’t alert to the allegations against Araiza in April. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity as the team hadn’t commented publicly concerning the allegations.
Executives from two different teams told the AP they truly became alert to Araizas involvement within an incident through the draft process, but neither person knew the extent of the allegations.
Following the Bills declined multiple requests for touch upon Friday, coach Sean McDermott was clearly shaken when he addressed the problem carrying out a 21-0 preseason loss at Carolina.
“Its a predicament thats extremely serious. Just hard to undergo. Its not just a situation that I or we take lightly whatsoever,” he said. “I could let you know this my heart, my thoughts and prayers venture out to individuals involved. And which includes Matt. It offers both sides here. The victim and everyone involved.”
McDermott said he was surprised and shocked by a few of the revelations which have turn out in the last day, and repeatedly stressed the team has work to accomplish. Asked what work would have to be done, he answered by saying: “Its only a matter of looking for the truth by the end of your day.”
McDermott said it had been his decision never to have Araiza play, saying he felt it had been not the proper move to make. While he said Araiza would travel back with the team, McDermott declined to answer a question on Araizas status on the roster.
Previously, the Bills only touch upon the lawsuit came each day earlier in saying these were alert to the allegations and had conducted their very own investigation.
“The reality of the incident aren’t what they’re portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement released through his agent, Joe Linta. “I anticipate quickly setting the record straight.”
The lawsuit states that the teen have been drinking with friends if they went to the party on Oct. 17 and she was “observably intoxicated upon arrival.” She became separated from her friends and was approached by Araiza who offered her a glass or two, based on the lawsuit. She believes the drink “not merely contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances,” the complaint said.
She told Araiza, who was simply 21 at that time, that she was a higher school senior, based on the lawsuit. She alleges then led her to a side yard where he asked her to execute oral sex and had sex with her before taking her to a bedroom in the house. There were at the very least three other men in the area, including Leonard and Ewaliko, based on the complaint. The lawsuit states that Araiza threw the teen onto the bed and she went in and out of consciousness while she had been raped. It added, “but she does remember some moments from the horrific gang rape.”
After an hour-and-a-half, the teen “stumbled out from the room bloody and crying,” based on the complaint. Her nose, belly button, and ear piercings have been pulled out.
She immediately informed her friends concerning the rape and the very next day reported it to police and underwent a rape exam, based on the lawsuit. Officers coached her on calling Araiza, which she did 10 days later as detectives recorded it, based on the complaint.
Through the call, Araiza confirmed sex with her, the lawsuit states, however when she asked him “And did we’ve actual sex?” he responded “That is Matt Araiza. I dont remember whatever happened that night,” and hung up.
“This is a horrific crime, the type of which happens frequently,” attorney Dan Gilleon said in a statement to the AP. Gilleon said this case is particularly egregious since it not merely involved “self-entitled athletes,” but multiple organizations from the university to the Buffalo Bills “have acted the section of enablers looking another way in denial that my client deserves justice even though the defendants are prized athletes.”
The LA Times first reported the lawsuit.
Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represents Araiza in the criminal investigation, called the allegations untrue in line with the findings of an investigator he hired.
“I 100% usually do not think that he ever forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like this,” Armstrong told the AP. “Its unfortunate that shes filed a civil suit. I believe its a cash grab.”
Armstrong said the Bills were alert to the allegations and investigation of Araiza prior to the lawsuit was filed because he provided the team updates since he was retained by the punter about six weeks hence.
“Matt Araizas very upset concerning this, obviously. Hes very disappointed,” Armstrong said. “But hes likely to get his day in court eventually.”
Armstrong said hes been informed police have all but completed their criminal investigation, that will then be reviewed by the district attorney to find out whether to file charges.
Marc Xavier Carlos, who’s representing Ewaliko within an ongoing criminal investigation, and Jamahl Kersey, representing Leonard, told the days they might not comment.
Reporting by Associated Press.
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