Buffalo Bills rookie Matt Araiza accused in lawsuit of involvement in gang-rape of minor

Buffalo Bills rookie Matt Araiza is alleged to have been involved in the gang-rape of a minor last year while attending San Diego State University, according to a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

The document, which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports, alleges Araiza had sex with an inebriated 17-year-old high school senior outside of an off-campus party, before bringing her inside a room where she was allegedly assaulted by multiple men, including at least one player currently listed on the San Diego State football roster.

According to the complaint, the teen drank with friends before attending a Halloween party the night of Oct. 16-17 at an off-campus home where Araiza lived. She said Araiza, who was 21 years old 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, the suit adds.

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 Araiza allegedly took her to a bedroom where his teammates took turns raping her for an hour and a half. The teen said she went in and out of consciousness during the sexual assault, the complaint says.

Zavier Leonard, an offensive lineman on the Aztecs' 2022 roster, and Nowlin "Pa'a" Ewaliko, who isn't listed on the roster, are also named in the lawsuit.

"The university takes allegations of sexual assault seriously. As this involves an active university investigation, and given laws governing privacy (FERPA), the university is not able to provide specific details regarding its investigation," San Diego State University said in a statement released Thursday night. "However, SDSU’s independent investigative process remains active and is ongoing following California State University systemwide policy: CSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Exploitation, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation (Nondiscrimination Policy).

"If a student is found to be in violation of the student code of conduct, as the result of a thorough investigation, disciplinary action includes but is not limited to suspension, dismissal or expulsion."

Matt Araiza during a September 2021 game with San Diego State.

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Araiza, now 22, known to football fans as the "Punt God," won the Bills' starting punter job earlier this week after he was drafted out of San Diego State in the sixth round of the 2022 draft. During his last season at SDSU in 2021, Araiza won the Ray Guy Award as the top collegiate punter in the nation, earned unanimous All-American honors and was named the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year.

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

Dan Gilleon, the teen's attorney, told USA TODAY Sports that his client "deserves justice even if the defendants are prized athletes."

"This was a horrific crime, the kind of which happens all too often," Gilleon said in a statement. "What makes these crimes different is not only that they were committed by self-entitled athletes. Just as awful as the crimes, for months, multiple organizations – SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney, and now the Buffalo Bills – have acted the part of enablers looking the other way."

Araiza's attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told The Los Angeles Times that the rape allegations against him are nothing more than a "shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills."

"There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl," Armstrong said.

According to the lawsuit, the teen told her friends that she had been raped after she escaped the bedroom "bloody and crying." The next day she alerted the San Diego Police Department and underwent a rape exam at a children's hospital.

The complaint adds that Araiza confirmed to having sex with the teen during a recorded "pretext" call set up by authorities and that Araiza instructed her to get tested for STDs.

No arrests have been made, according to the Times.

Matt Araiza unleashed an 82-yard punt in the Bills' preseason game vs. the Colts.

SDSU has faced backlash for launching its own investigation into the alleged sexual assault more than nine months later. The university said authorities initially asked SDSU to "delay its administrative investigation to ensure that the criminal case was not compromised," but deemed in July an independent investigation wouldn't jeopardize the case.

The teen, now 18, told the Los Angles Times last month that she was disappointed in how the police and the university have responded.

"Something like this sticks with you forever," the unidentified teen told the Times. "And all I can really do now is just hope that I can get some sort of justice somehow and feel like people are facing consequences for their actions because I feel like I’ve been facing the consequences for their actions."

USA TODAY does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The teen's father added that it's "absolutely ridiculous" the university waited months to launch its own investigation or even inform the SDSU community: "To keep it silent for now over nine months — the same people that are alleged to have done this have been allowed to roam free, graduate, continue to play in their sports. It drives me bonkers."

Contributing: Josh Peter, Steve Berkowitz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bills punter Matt Araiza named in lawsuit alleging gang-rape of minor