Payments launch punter Matt Araiza in civil swimsuit after rape allegations | Buffalo Invoice’s Information | NFL

The Buffalo Bills ruled Saturday that keeping rookie punter Matt Araiza on the roster was untenable amid explosive allegations that he was involved in a gang rape of a then 17-year-old girl in California last fall.

The team announced that it had released Araiza, just over 48 hours after publicly releasing a civil lawsuit against him and two of his former San Diego State University teammates.

Discussing the team’s decision Saturday night, a somber Bills general manager, Brandon Beane, said: “Our culture here is more important than winning football games.”

“The last 48 hours have been very difficult for a lot of people,” Beane said. “It was hard. … We sympathize with this whole situation, everyone involved, this young woman, what she went through. I feel really bad about this whole situation. At the end of the day it’s a legal situation, we don’t know all the facts and that makes it difficult.

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“But at this point,” Beane said, “we just think the best move for everyone is to leave Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that.”

Beane made it clear that Araiza’s version of events on the night in question was different from what the lawsuit alleges. Araiza released a statement through his agent Friday night, saying the “facts of the incident are not what they represent in the lawsuit” and that he looks forward to “quickly setting the record straight.”

Beane said the team was unaware of allegations when it selected Araiza in the sixth round of the NFL draft in late April.

“We didn’t know about it, and the league didn’t know about it,” Beane said. “We were reaching out to teams in double digits at this point and nobody had anything on it. These names were sealed regardless of where the investigation was at the time. Yeah, if we had that and gotten things like that from guys, you know how important character and culture is to Sean (McDermott) and me. And anything left behind (Araiza) would have been removed from our board.”

Following the rape allegation against Matt Araiza, the Bills faced a difficult decision

Less than 24 hours after Bills coach Sean McDermott took the podium and addressed the situation after the team’s final preseason game Friday night, Araiza was gone.

Beane said the team only learned of the allegations at the end of July. The prosecutor’s attorney in the case, Daniel Gilleon, spoke with Kathryn D’Angelo, the Bills’ assistant chief counsel, on July 31. Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said Friday he believes Araiza shortly told the Bills about the situation after a June 3 story about the incident appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The story did not include names of players from the state of San Diego. A second story featuring an interview with the prosecutor was published on July 29. Armstrong said he was held back by Araiza’s parents about six weeks ago.

“We tried not to be too quick to judge,” Beane said. “And obviously Matt’s version was different. And you want to provide everyone with as much due process as possible. Again, we are not a judge or a jury. … “I would say it’s not easy, you’re trying to wrap facts around a legal position, sometimes with limited information, and so ultimately we’re left with a decision today.”

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego County Superior Court. No criminal charges were filed. The San Diego County Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that it was reviewing a police investigation into the incident, but did not offer a timeline for a decision.

According to the complaint, the teen, identified as “Jane Doe,” had been drinking with friends when she arrived at the off-campus San Diego home and was “noticeably intoxicated.”

The teenager said Araiza, then 21, handed her a drink at the party that she believed contained “not only alcohol but also other intoxicating substances,” the suit said. She also said she told Araiza that she was in high school. He then led her to a side courtyard where he asked her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her, the suit said before leading her inside.

In a bedroom of the house, according to the lawsuit, Araiza and others participated in the rape. The other people named in the complaint are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko. Leonard is a redshirt freshman on San Diego State’s fall list. Ewaliko was on the team last year but is off the list this fall. Leonard and Ewaliko’s attorneys have not commented.

Invoices practice (copy)

Buffalo Bills player Matt Araiza during practice on Wednesday.

Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

The suit said she told her friends after the incident and went to the police the next day. Gilleon, her lawyer, has released copies of diary entries she wrote after the October 17 attack. The complaint said she waited about five hours before an officer spoke to her. She was then taken to a hospital for a rape investigation.

When asked if the release of the 11-page civil lawsuit had revealed details he wasn’t aware of, Beane said:

“Well, they were allegations,” Beane said. “It just clarified exactly what they were. And at that point, it’s a real civil process. It’s not, that can happen. It’s something you have to respond to, and at this point we’re not the judge and jury.”

When asked why the team did not have follow-up calls with Gilleon after July 31 or attempted to speak to the woman, Beane said:

“I would say we had the rocks of what to blame or allege. But at that point it wasn’t a real case. And there was, one of the things you look at is, where’s that criminal? That’s what you’re trying to find out. And so we just tried again to look at everything. (Any) of those things there, if true, would be a no-go for us. You know what I mean? So we didn’t need any of that. We just had to try to gather as many facts as possible in a limited amount of time.”

Beane added, “All we were trying to do was use our resources in the time we had to put the pieces together and figure out what happened, and Matt was very aware that we were going to if something didn’t go up and down during our process remove it. When this became a civil proceeding two days ago, it was very serious and we felt it was in Matt’s best interest.”

'Jane Doe''s Attorney's Testimony Regarding Bills' Release Of Matt Araiza

“Jane Doe’s” attorney believes the Buffalo Bills made the right decision in releasing punter Matt Araiza on Saturday. However, Dan Gilleon thinks it took the team far too long to come to the decision.

Gilleon wasn’t impressed with the Bills’ reaction over the past month. In a statement released to The News, the lawyer said:

“The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young player after they so botched their response to our claim: They ignored us as if what I warned them could be avoided if they just turned their heads stuck in the sand. That’s what enablers do.

“My client’s life was forever scarred in October 2021, but she treated herself with grace and dignity,” Gilleon said. “She never once expressed to me the desire to hurt her attackers out of revenge or hatred. She never asked for a pound of meat. Her only request was the kind of justice that could save other young women from the hell she has been through.”

The Bills released a statement Thursday, saying in part, “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have thoroughly investigated this matter.”

Beane conceded, “I mean, as thorough as possible with what we could get our hands on. We probably should have said it’s moving on. It was not completed. We don’t have a lot of things right now, really. This is very serious.”

McDermott said he told Araiza about the team’s decision to release him on Saturday morning: “He seemed to understand. I think when we spoke again this morning he agreed that that was probably for the best.”

The Bills fired veteran punter Matt Haack Monday, declaring Araiza the winner of the punter contest.

“It wasn’t a civil proceeding,” Beane said. “There was no criminal case. What we had were allegations to make, and we were still putting them together. Apparently a civil suit was filed 48 hours ago or at some point in the time. We read through that and circled back with Matt. Here, too, there are many things that we cannot close the loop on at the moment.”

When asked about the decision to cut Haack, who was later picked up by the Indianapolis Colts, Beane said:

“That is a difficult question. One can imagine whether that was the right step. We will definitely look into that in the future if this situation or a similar situation arises.”

Beane said Araiza’s agent was unaware of the allegations until late July.

“His agent didn’t know,” Beane said. “We understand without going into detail that sometime this summer Matt found out he was under investigation and then he hired, I don’t know the date but I believe he hired his attorney sometime around the time when we found out.”

Araiza’s agent, Joe Linta, did not return a message call Saturday night.

Armstrong, Araiza’s attorney, released the following statement: “Matt is extremely upset and disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because of his poor play, but because of false allegations made against him by a young lady and her attorney. I hope he’s back in the NFL soon. He deserves it because he’s the hardest working 22-year-old I know.”

When asked again why the allegations in early August were not enough to warrant action against Araiza, Beane said, “We tried not to make any hasty judgments. And obviously Matt’s version was different. And you want to provide everyone with as much due process as possible. Again, we are not a judge or a jury.”

Araiza received a $216,148 signing bonus for signing a four-year deal with the Bills that would have been worth a total of $3.8 million. The contract is not guaranteed, he will not get his salary in 2022 from the team because of the dismissal.

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