SAN DIEGO (AP) – Matt Araiza, the “Punt God” who led San Diego State to a record-breaking season before being drafted by the Buffalo Bills, and two of his former Aztecs teammates were charged in a civil suit on gang thursday. raping a teenager at an off-campus party last fall.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, accuses Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko of raping a 17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at a house where Araiza lived.
The complainant, now 18, is identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe” because she was a minor at the time.
No arrests were made and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects.
Leonard is listed on the San Diego State roster as a rookie of the redshirt offensive line from Arlington, Texas. Ewaliko is not listed on this year’s list, but he was on the 2021 list as a defensive lineman for Seattle.
The lawsuit claims the teenager was drinking with friends when they decided to go to the party on October 17 and she was “visibly intoxicated on arrival”. She became separated from her friends and was approached by Araiza who offered her a drink, according to the lawsuit. She believes the drink “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances,” the complaint said.
She told Araiza, who was 21 at the time, that she was in her final year of high school, according to the lawsuit. She claims he took her to a side yard where he asked her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her before taking her to a room in the house. There were at least three other men in the room, including Leonard and Ewaliko, according to the complaint. The lawsuit claims Araiza threw the teenager face down on the bed as she drifted in and out of consciousness while she was being raped. He added: “But she remembers some moments of the horrific gang rape.”
After an hour and a half, the teenager “walked out of the room bloodied and crying,” according to the complaint. His nose, belly button and ear piercings were ripped off.
She immediately told her friends about the rape and the next day she reported it to the police and underwent a rape exam, according to the lawsuit. The officers directed her to call Araiza, which she did 10 days later, as detectives recorded it, according to the complaint.
During the call, Araiza confirmed that he had sex with her, the lawsuit claims, but when she asked him “And did we actually have sex?” he replied “This is Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night” and hung up.
“This was a horrible crime, the kind that happens all too often,” attorney Dan Gilleon said in a statement to the AP. Gilleon said this case is especially egregious because it didn’t just involve “self-styled athletes,” but several organizations, from the university to the Buffalo Bills, “have acted as facilitators looking the other way, denying that my client deserves justice, even if the defendants are award-winning athletes.”
The Los Angeles Times first reported on the process.
Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represents Araiza in the criminal investigation, called the allegations false based on the findings of an investigator he hired.
“I 100% don’t believe he forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that,” Armstrong told the AP. “It’s a shame she filed a civil suit. I think it’s a cash gain.”
Armstrong said the Bills were aware of Araiza’s allegations and investigation before the lawsuit was filed because he has provided updates to the team since being hired by the bookie about six weeks ago.
“Matt Araiza is very upset about this, as you can imagine. He is very disappointed,” Armstrong said. “But he’s going to have his day in court eventually.”
Armstrong said he has been told that the police have virtually completed their criminal investigation, which will then be reviewed by the district attorney to determine whether to press charges.
Marc Xavier Carlos, who is representing Ewaliko in an ongoing criminal investigation, and Jamahl Kersey, representing Leonard, told the Times they could not comment.
The suit comes days after the Bills cleared the way for Araiza to take over punting duties, releasing veteran Matt Haack. Buffalo drafted Araiza in the sixth round because of his expanding left leg.
Araiza, 22, who attended San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo High, was SDSU’s best-known player during a record 12-2 season at the school, which took him 25th in the final AP Top 25 rankings. the field with his jaw-dropping kicks and set an NCAA record with an average of 51.19 yards. He won the Ray Guy Award and was a first-team AP All-American.
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt in October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement. “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we carried out a thorough examination of the matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no further comment at this time.”
The Bills traveled to Carolina for the end of the Panthers showing on Friday night. It’s unclear whether Araiza will play the Panthers, though the Bills don’t have another punter on their roster. Since then, Haack has signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo contributed to this report.