An attorney representing the woman who says Buffalo rookie punter Matt Araiza raped her last year when she was 17 said the Bills never spoke to the woman while investigating allegations in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.
The Bills cited their examination, which occurred last month, in deciding to keep Araiza, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State nicknamed “Punt God,” whom they named their starter this week.
“They didn’t do an investigation,” Dan Gilleon, an attorney representing the woman listed in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, 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.”
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.”
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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.”
It is USA TODAY policy not to identify people who allegedly have been sexually assaulted.
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.
Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who represents Araiza, said he has been in touch with the Bills “quite frequently over the last several weeks.”
“I’m very impressed by the way they’ve treated Matt and by the way they’ve treated me,” Armstrong told USA TODAY Sports. “I have given them some information and they’ve conducted their own investigation with their own investigators as well. That’s my understanding anyway.
“And I think they’ve come so far to the correct conclusion, that’s not to cut Matt Araiza based on these conclusions based on these allegations.”
Armstrong said the Bills spoke to Araiza and him about the allegations.
“Some of both, but mostly through me,” he said via text message.
The San Diego Police Department has submitted its investigation of the matter to the San Diego County District Attorney’s office and it is currently under review, according to Tanya Sierra, Public Affairs Officer for the District Attorney’s office.
“There is no timeline for how long it will take,” Sierra said by email to USA TODAY Sports.
The alleged incident took place Oct. 16-17 at an off-campus party 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, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman at San Diego State, and Pa’a Ewaliko, who was a freshman defensive lineman and no longer is listed on the roster.
The woman said she went in and out of consciousness during the sexual assault, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the woman 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, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 19, two days after the alleged incident, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) contacted San Diego State and confirmed it had received a complaint about the matter, according to La Monica Everett-Haynes, the school’s Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer.
The police had opened an investigation into the matter and asked the San Diego State “to stand down and not launch an independent investigation,” Everett-Haynes said by email.
“The university, after much consideration, agreed not to initiate an investigation to avoid compromising the criminal investigation led by SDPD,” the university said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.
The alleged incident took place on the night after San Diego State beat rival San Jose State 19-13 in overtime and improved to 6-0 for only the second time in 46 years.
The team finished 12-2, one of its best seasons in years, and Araiza won the Ray Guy Award – given to the best punter in college football – and received All-America honors.
His attorney said school officials, including head football coach Brady Hoke, never spoke to him about the allegations.
“I asked Matt that, whether he had talked to anyone from the team, as far as coaches or school administrators like that,” Armstrong said. “And they never, ever even talked to them about it during last season.”
Armstrong defended the university against criticism it should have investigated the matter before the police investigation recently ended. “San Diego State’s getting a bad rap over this,” he said.
But the woman’s attorney said the school acted in its best interest by keeping Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko on the roster.
“It’s no coincidence that the handling of this situation permitted them to have these guys come back on the field and in turn have a very winning season,” Gilleon said.
Attorneys for Leonard and Ewaliko did not return messages from USA TODAY Sports by email.
Contributing: Cydney Henderson
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism