ORCHARD PARK, NY — NFL rookie punter Matt Araiza has been released from the Buffalo Bills days after he and two other football players were charged in a lawsuit last year with gang rape of a then 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party at San Diego State University.
“This afternoon we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do. Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games,” team manager Brandon Beane announced on Saturday.
Araiza and two other current or former San Diego State University football players are charged with gang raping the girl at a Halloween party last year, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the plaintiff’s attorney 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 soccer team at the time of the alleged incident last October.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told TSWT 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 rectifying the matter soon,” Araiza said in a statement from his lawyer.
Jane Doe says she attended a party with friends in the San Diego area, but was allegedly separated from them when she met Araiza. The filing further claims that Araiza “could notice that Doe was heavily intoxicated” and “gave her a drink anyway.”
“Doe told Araiza that she attended Grossmont High School. Araiza, who was 21 years old, knew or should have known that Doe was a minor,” the indictment said.
Araiza’s lawyer disputed the claim, saying, “He never used violence against her. She wasn’t visibly drunk. He didn’t give her a drink with anything in it.”
According to the indictment, Araiza led the girl into a bedroom where “there were already at least three other men in the bedroom,” 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 shut down. Doe stumbled out of the room bloodied and crying,” the indictment said.
The girl reported the alleged incident to the San Diego Police Department the next day and was undergoing a rape investigation at a hospital, according to the lawsuit.
Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko’s attorney Marc Carlos told TSWT in a telephone interview that he sees some issues with Doe’s credibility and the circumstances under which she reported the event. “Filing the civil suit is clearly an attempt to pressure the DA to file a case,” he said. According to Carlos, Ewaliko is not enrolled at SDSU this semester.
Zavier Leonard’s attorney Jahmal Kersey declined to comment but told TSWT they were aware of the lawsuit.
The San Diego County District Attorney said the investigation is under review but did not specify when a decision on the charges will be made.
The state of San Diego released a statement saying it “takes allegations of sexual assault seriously,” but could not release specific details about the case due to privacy concerns, saying the allegations were still “active university investigation.” The statement further said that a violation of the university’s student code of conduct could potentially lead to “suspension, dismissal or expulsion.”
The Buffalo Bills were made aware of the allegations in late July, when they were approached by a representative for the alleged victim, Beane said at a news conference Saturday.
“The last 48 have been very difficult for a lot of people. It has been tough and we sympathize with this whole situation, all parties involved,” Beane said.
“Ultimately this is a legal situation. We don’t know all the facts and that makes it difficult, but at the moment we just think the best move for everyone is to move on with Matt and let him settle this situation.” and focus on that,” Beane added. “So that’s where we split up.”
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