- Ex-Bills punter Matt Araiza is accused of being involved in the Oct. 2021 gang-rape of a minor
- The Bills released Araiza Saturday night, two days after he was named in a civil lawsuit
- The alleged victim’s attorney said he spoke to the Bills’ general counsel in July about the matter
The Buffalo Bills are still dealing with the fallout of their handling of former punter Matt Araiza, who is alleged to have been involved in the gang-rape of a minor last year while he attended San Diego State University.
Buffalo selected Araiza in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft with the 180th overall pick. He won the starting punter job Aug. 22 when the team released veteran punter Matt Haack. Araiza was also set to serve as the holder during Buffalo’s field goals and extra-point attempts.
Araiza, 22, was released Saturday after the alleged victim filed a civil lawsuit Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the matter:
What are the accusations against Araiza?
A civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court alleges Araiza sexually assaulted an inebriated 17-year-old high school senior outside of an off-campus party in October 2021 at the home where Araiza lived, before bringing her inside a room where she was allegedly assaulted by multiple men. According to the complaint, Araiza, who was 21 at the time, allegedly gave the victim a drink she believed “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances” despite her saying she was in high school.
Criminal charges have not been filed, pending an ongoing investigation that the San Diego police have turned over to the district attorney.
What was the Bills’ initial response?
Thursday night, after the civil suit was filed, the Bills issued a statement, saying they “conducted a thorough examination” of the allegations after they had “recently” learned about them and would not be commenting further.
Buffalo then played its final preseason game Friday on the road against the Carolina Panthers, eventually losing the game, 21-0. As news of the lawsuit circulated, the Bills faced mounting pressure and held Araiza out of the game, despite his traveling with the team and arriving at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
After the game, Bills head coach Sean McDermott addressed the matter and said he “didn’t feel like it was right” to play Araiza.
“It’s a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day,” McDermott added. “That’s the goal is to find the truth and do the right thing. That’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and my heart: Find out the truth, to the best of my ability, and do the right thing.”
Did the Bills contact the victim or her attorney?
According to the victim’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon, Buffalo did not.
“They didn’t do an investigation,” Gilleon told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “I mean, you can’t investigate when you don’t even ask the primary witness what happened.
“There’s two people involved. You’ve got to talk to both people.”
Did the Bills release Araiza?
Yes. The Bills made the announcement Saturday evening, two days after the civil suit was filed.
“The last 48 hours has been very difficult, for a lot of people. It’s been very tough,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at a news conference Saturday. “We sympathize with this whole situation, all the parties involved. This young woman, what she went through. You really feel bad for that whole situation. Ultimately, this is a legal situation — we don’t know all the facts. That’s what makes it hard.
“But at this time, we just think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that, so we’re going to part ways there.”
When did the Bills know about the accusations?
Beane admitted Saturday night that the franchise became aware of the allegations against Araiza as early as July. Beane said he could not recall whether Buffalo first learned of the accusations when Gilleon, the victim’s attorney, informed Buffalo’s counsel in July, or if the team heard about it from Araiza himself. Beane did stress, however, that members of the Bills front office spoke to Araiza about the matter at around the time the victim’s lawyer approached the franchise.
“We were trying not to rush to judgment,” Beane said Saturday. “Obviously, Matt’s version was different. You want to give everyone as much due process as you can. We’re not a judge and jury.”
In any case, the Bills at the very least became aware of the allegations a month before they released veteran punter Matt Haack on Aug. 22, officially handing over the job to Araiza.
What happened when the alleged victim’s attorney reached the Bills in July?
On July 31, Gilleon emailed the Bills’ general counsel, Kathryn D’Angelo, and said he represented the woman who accused Araiza of raping her as part of a gang-rape, according to a copy of the email obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
Gilleon said he spoke to D’Angelo by phone the next day.
“I had one conversation with (D’Angelo),” Gilleon said. “Extended conversation. She didn’t ask too many questions. I just did a lot of the talking.
“She said she would get back to me and she never did. And then I followed up with an email to her saying, ‘Hey, two weeks ago you told me you’d get back to me. You haven’t.’ And still no reply whatever.”
What has been the reaction to Araiza’s release?
Gilleon blasted the Bills over their handling of Araiza’s employment with the team just hours after he was released Saturday.
“The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young punter after so badly botching their response to our claim: they ignored us, as though what I warned them would happen could be avoided if they just kept their heads in the sand,” Gilleon said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. “This is what enablers do.”
“My client’s life was forever scarred in October 2021, but she handled herself with grace and dignity. Not once did she express to me a desire to hurt her assaulters out of revenge or hatred. She never asked for a pound of flesh. Her only ask was the kind of justice that might save other young women from the hell she experienced.”
Has Araiza said anything about the matter?
While he was still a member of the Bills and after he was held out of the exhibition game against the Panthers, Araiza released a statement Friday in which he denied wrongdoing.
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports by his agent, Joe Linta. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Then, after he was released Saturday, Araiza released another statement, this one through his attorney, Kerry Armstrong.
“Matt is very disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played poorly, but because of false allegations leveled against him by a young lady and her attorney,” Armstrong wrote in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “I hope he is back in the NFL soon. He deserves to be, as he is the hardest-working 22-year-old I know.”
Contributing: Jarrett Bell, Cydney Henderson, Josh Peter