Matt Araiza, the ‘Punt God’ who led San Diego State to a record-breaking season before being drafted by the Buffalo Ticketsand two of his former Aztec teammates were charged in a civil lawsuit Thursday with raping a teenager at an off-campus party last fall.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, charges Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin ‘Pa’a’ Ewaliko with gang-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 have been made and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects.
Leonard is listed on the San Diego State roster as a redshirt freshman offensive lineman from Arlington, Texas. Ewaliko is not on this year’s roster, but was on the 2021 roster as a Seattle defensive lineman.
The lawsuit says the teenager had been drinking with friends when they decided to go to the October 17 party and was “visibly drunk when she arrived”. She separated from her friends and was approached by Araiza who offered her a drink, according to the lawsuit. She believes the drink “contained not only alcohol, but other intoxicants,” according to the complaint.
She told Araiza, who was 21 at the time, that she was a high school student, according to the lawsuit. She alleges he then drove her to a side yard where he asked her to perform oral sex and then had sex with her before taking her to a bedroom in the house. There were at least three other men in the room, including Leonard and Ewaliko, according to the complaint. The lawsuit states that Araiza first threw the teenager onto the bed as she entered and lost consciousness as she was raped. He added, “but she remembers some moments from the horrific gang rape.”
After an hour and a half, the teenager “came out of the room sobbing and crying”, according to the complaint. Her nose, navel and ear piercings had been ripped out.
She immediately told her friends about the rape and the next day reported it to the police and underwent a rape examination, according to the lawsuit. Officers trained her to call Araiza, which she did 10 days later when detectives recorded it, according to the complaint.
During the call, Araiza confirmed he had sex with her, the lawsuit says, but when she asked him “And did we have actual sex?” he replied “It’s Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night” and hung up.
“It was a horrific crime, the kind of crime that happens too often,” attorney Dan Gilleon said in a statement to the AP. Gilleon said this case is particularly egregious because it not only involved “self-proclaimed athletes,” but several organizations, from the university to the Buffalo Bills, “acted as enablers who looked the other way to deny that my client deserves justice. even if the defendants are renowned athletes”.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the lawsuit.
Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who is representing Araiza in the criminal investigation, called the allegations false based on the findings of an investigator he hired.
“I don’t 100% believe that he ever forcibly raped that girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that,” Armstrong told the AP. “It is a pity that she filed a civil complaint. I think it’s a money grab.
Armstrong said the Bills were aware of the allegations and investigation into Araiza before the lawsuit was filed, as he has provided team updates since being retained by the punter a while ago. about six weeks.
“Matt Araiza is very upset about this, as you can imagine. He’s very disappointed,” Armstrong said. “But he will eventually have his day in court.”
Armstrong said he has been informed that police have largely 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 lawsuit comes days after the Bills paved the way for Araiza to take over punting duties by releasing returning veteran Matt Haack. Buffalo drafted Araiza in the sixth round due to his booming left leg.
Araiza, 22, who attended Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego, was SDSU’s most recognizable player in a record 12-2 school season that earned a No. 25 ranking in the latest AP Top 25 poll. He consistently toppled the field with his breathtaking punts 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 from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement. “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have conducted a thorough review of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil matter, we will have no further comment at this stage.
The Bills traveled to Carolina for their exhibition finale to the Panthers on Friday night. It’s unclear whether Araiza will play against the Panthers, although the Bills have no other bettors on their roster. Haack has since signed with the Indianapolis Colts.