Attorney for woman who accused Matt Araiza of rape blasts Bills and his representation

An attorney for the woman who says NFL rookie punter Matt Araiza raped her last year when she was 17 blasted the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, even after the team released Araiza.

“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,’’ attorney Dan 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,'' Gilleon added, referring to the Halloween party in San Diego where the woman, now 18, says Araiza, then 21, assaulted her during a gang-rape, "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.’’

Araiza, an All-American at San Diego State last year who was nicknamed “Punt God,’’ was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round. He won the starting job on Monday, but on Thursday the woman's attorney filed a civil lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court that included detailed rape allegations and two days later he was out of a job.

“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,’’ attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represents Araiza, said in a statement he provided 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.’’

Armstrong drew withering criticism from the woman's attorney.

“When she authorized me to contact Matt Araiza and the other defendants, she made it clear that money was not her aim,’’ Gilleon said. “She never asked for a dime from Matt Araiza. Mr. Araiza’s attorney knew that. He knew that he had offered us money to settle the case and that we had rejected the offer. Yet, Mr. Araiza’s legal counsel had the audacity to go on a despicable, brainless TV tour to defame my client as a 'shakedown' artist and 'money grabber.'

“Think about that. Mr. Araiza’s legal agent knew that a 17-year-old girl had left a room where Matt Araiza was also present, covered in blood and bruises and crying that she had been raped. Yet, he stooped so low that he was willing to label that 17-year-old girl an opportunistic grifter.

“This was utterly inhumane and stunningly foolish. If Matt Araiza had shown 1% of the grace that my client has, perhaps by offering an apology and donating his money to a charity serving rape survivors, he would still be a Buffalo Bill and his parents could sit in the stands and watch their son with pride. Instead, he decided to hire an attorney who knew only to viciously attack the young woman his client had raped. Now Mr. Araiza’s life is forever scarred too. Perhaps this is the self-inflicted justice he deserves.”

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks about the allegations against Matt Araiza during a press conference Friday night.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott speaks about the allegations against Matt Araiza during a press conference Friday night.

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In a statement Thursday, the Bills said they "were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021. Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no other comment at this point.''

But on Friday, the Bills held Araiza out from the last preseason game and on Saturday the team released him.

"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 press 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."

The Bills' releasing Araiza earned no praise from Gilleon, who in a previous interview with USA TODAY Sports said the Bills did not speak to the woman and said, "They didn’t do an investigation. I mean, you can’t investigate when you don’t even ask the primary witness what happened.''

Attorney: Bills never spoke to woman who accused Matt Araiza of rape

Nancy Armour: Don't buy Bills' claim of a 'thorough examination' of rape allegation against Matt Araiza

The alleged incident took place Oct. 16-17 at an off-campus party near San Diego State where Araiza lived, according to the lawsuit.

The woman said Araiza, who was 21 at the time, gave her a drink she believes "not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances" despite her saying she was in high school, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit says Araiza took the intoxicated teen to the side of the house and told her to perform oral sex on him before he "pulled her up from the ground, turned her around facing away from the party," and penetrated her from behind.

Then, the woman said, Araiza took her to a bedroom where his teammates took turns raping her for an hour and a half, according to the lawsuit. The woman also said she was raped by two other football players, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin "Pa’a" Ewaliko. Both are no longer listed on the San Diego State roster.

The woman said she went in and out of consciousness during the sexual assault, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, the woman is listed as Jane Doe and it is USA TODAY policy not to identify people who allegedly have been sexually assaulted.

Gilleon said the Bills never spoke to his client and characterized the team as largely nonresponsive to him.

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 has 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 whatsoever.’’

Derek Boyko, the Vice President of Communications for the Bills, did not immediately reply to a request for comment from USA TODAY Sports by phone.

Contributing: Cydney Henderson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bills fail with response to Matt Araiza allegations, attorney says