The Buffalo Bills decided on Saturday it was untenable to keep rookie punter Matt Araiza on the roster amid explosive accusations that he participated in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last fall in California. .
The team announced that it had released Araiza, just over 48 hours after the release of a civil lawsuit against him and two of his former San Diego State University teammates.
Discussing the team’s decision on Saturday night, a gloomy 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 tough. … We sympathize with this whole situation, all the parties involved, this young woman, what she has been through. I feel really bad for this whole situation. At the end of the day, it’s a legal situation, we don’t know all the facts and that’s what makes it difficult.
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“But right now,” Beane said, “we just think it’s the best decision for everyone to leave Matt and let him deal with this situation and focus on that.”
Beane clarified that Araiza’s version of the events of the night in question was different from what is alleged in the lawsuit. Araiza released a statement Friday night through his agent saying “the facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit” and that he was looking forward to “quickly setting the record straight.” ‘hour”.
Beane said the team was unaware of the allegations when it picked Araiza in the sixth round of the NFL Draft in late April.
“We didn’t know it and the league didn’t know it,” Beane said. “We contacted, I can tell you, double-digit teams at this point, and nobody had anything about it. Those names were sealed, regardless of where the investigation was at that time- Yeah, if we had that, and we got stuff like that from the guys, you know how important character and culture is to Sean (McDermott) and I. And whatever else would have dragged on, (Araiza) would have been out of our chart.
Less than 24 hours after Bills coach Sean McDermott took to the podium after the team’s final preseason game on Friday night and addressed the situation, Araiza was gone.
Beane said the team didn’t find out about the allegations until late July. The attorney for the accuser in the case, Daniel Gilleon, spoke with Kathryn D’Angelo, the Bills’ assistant general counsel, on July 31. Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said Friday he believes Araiza informed the Bills of the situation shortly. after a June 3 article was published in the Los Angeles Times about the incident. The story did not include the names of any San Diego State players. A second story with an interview with the accuser was published on July 29. Armstrong said he was held back by Araiza’s parents about six weeks ago.
“We were trying not to rush to judgment,” Beane said. “And obviously Matt’s version was different. And you want to give everyone as much due process as possible. Again, we are not a judge and jury. … “I would say it’s not easy, you’re trying to put facts around a legal situation, sometimes with limited information, and so ultimately that’s where we are today with a decision .”
The lawsuit was filed in San Diego County Superior Court. No criminal charges have been filed. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that it is considering a police investigation into the incident, but offered no timeline for a decision.
According to the complaint, the teenager, identified as “Jane Doe”, had already been drinking with friends when she arrived at the San Diego off-campus house and was “obviously drunk”.
The teenager said Araiza, then 21, handed her a drink at the party which she said “contained not only alcohol, but other intoxicants”, according to the lawsuit. She also said she told Araiza she was in high school. He then drove her to a side yard where he asked her to perform oral sex, then had sex with her, according to the suit, before leading her inside.
In a bedroom of the house, according to the prosecution, Araiza and others participated in the rape. The others named in the complaint are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko. Leonard is on San Diego State’s fall roster as a redshirt freshman. Ewaliko was on the team last year but is not on the roster this fall. Lawyers for Leonard and Ewaliko did not comment.
The suit said she told her friends after the incident and turned herself in to police the next day. Gilleon, her lawyer, released copies of diary entries she wrote after the October 17 assault. The complaint says she waited about five hours before an officer spoke to her. She was then taken to the hospital for a rape examination.
When asked if the release of the 11-page civil lawsuit brought to light any details he was unaware of, Beane replied:
“Well, those were accusations,” Beane said. “It just clarified exactly what they were. And at that point, it’s a real civil matter. It’s not a, it can happen. It’s something you have to answer, and at this point, we’re not the judge and jury.
When asked why the team didn’t have follow-up conversations with Gilleon or try to speak to the woman after July 31, Beane said:
“I would say we had the rocks of what was going to be charged or alleged. But at that time, it was not a real case. And there was, one of the things you look at is, where is it criminally? That’s what you’re trying to find out. And so, we were just trying, again, to watch everything. (Any) of those things over there, if true, would be a no-go for us. You know what I mean? So we didn’t need all that. We just needed 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 for the time we had to put together and find out what happened, and Matt was very aware that if something went wrong during our process , we would do it. remove it. Once it became a civil matter two days ago, it was of a very serious nature, and we felt it was in Matt’s best interest.
The lawyer for “Jane Doe” thinks the Buffalo Bills made the right decision by releasing punter Matt Araiza on Saturday. However, Dan Gilleon thinks the team took far too long to come to a decision.
Gilleon was unimpressed with the Bills’ response last month. In a statement released to The News, the lawyer said:
“The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young punter after they botched their response to our request so badly: they ignored us, as if what I warned them could be avoided if they kept the head in the sand. That’s what facilitators do.
“My client’s life was marked forever in October 2021, but she behaved with grace and dignity,” Gilleon said. “Not once did she express to me a desire to hurt her abusers out of revenge or hatred. She never asked for a pound of flesh. Her only request was the kind of justice that could save other young people. women from hell she lived.”
The Bills released a statement on Thursday saying, in part, “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have conducted a thorough review of this matter.”
Beane acknowledged, “I mean, as thorough as possible with what we could get our hands on. We probably should have said in progress. It wasn’t over. We don’t have a lot of stuff right now, we really don’t. This is very serious.”
McDermott said he informed Araiza of 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 was probably the best thing to do.
The Bills released veteran punter Matt Haack on Monday, effectively declaring Araiza the winner of the punters’ competition.
“It wasn’t a civil case,” Beane said. “There was no criminal case. What we had were charges that could be brought and we were still piecing them together. Obviously 48 hours ago or so, a civil case was filed. We read it and started over with Matt. Again, there’s a lot we can’t close the loop on right now.
Asked about the decision to cut Haack, who was later picked up by the Indianapolis Colts, Beane said:
” It’s difficult. You can guess if it was the right decision. We will certainly look into this in the future if this or a similar situation arises. »
Beane said Araiza’s agent didn’t know about the charges until late July.
“His agent didn’t know,” Beane said. “Our understanding without going into detail is that Matt found out this summer that he was under investigation, and that’s when he hired, I don’t know the date, but I believe he hired his attorney around the time we found out.”
Araiza’s agent, Joe Linta, did not return a call from News on Saturday evening.
Armstrong, Araiza’s attorney, released the following statement: “Matt is very upset and disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played poorly, but because of false allegations made against him. by a young woman and her lawyer. I hope he’s back in the NFL soon. He deserves it because he’s the hardest-working 22-year-old player I know.
Asked again why the charges weren’t enough to take action against Araiza in early August, Beane said: “We were trying not to rush to judgment. And obviously Matt’s version was different. And you want to give everyone as much due process as possible. Again, we are not a judge and jury.
Araiza received a signing bonus of $216,148 upon signing a four-year contract with the Bills that would have been worth a total of $3.8 million. The contract is not guaranteed and he is not receiving his 2022 salary from the team due to the release.