NFL punter Matt Araiza and two former college teammates accused of rape in lawsuit

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Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko were members of the San Diego State University soccer team at the time of the alleged incident last October.

Araiza said in a statement from his lawyer: “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to setting the record straight soon.”

Araiza did not play in Bills’ preseason game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday.

Earlier, his attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told CNN that his client had not raped the accuser.

“He never used violence against her. She wasn’t visibly drunk. He didn’t give her a drink with anything in it,” Armstrong added.

Araiza “hopes it doesn’t affect this career with the Buffalo Bills. He really loves the team and hopes he can stay with them,” Armstrong said.

Jane Doe says she attended a party with friends in the San Diego area but, according to the lawsuit, separated from them when she met Araiza. The claim goes on to say that Araiza “could notice that Doe was heavily intoxicated” and “gave her a drink anyway.”

“Doe told Araiza that she attended Grossmont High School. Araiza, who was 21 years old, knew or should have known that Doe was a minor,” the indictment said.

The woman says Araiza led her to a bedroom where “there were already at least three other men in the bedroom,” including Leonard and Ewaliko, who were both at least 18 years old, according to the court document. Shortly after Doe entered the bedroom, the men reportedly began engaging in sexual acts with her, the lawsuit alleges.

“Doe was raped for about an hour and a half until the party was shut down. Doe stumbled out of the room bloodied and crying,” the indictment said.

Doe reported the alleged incident to the San Diego Police Department the next day and was undergoing a rape investigation at a local hospital, according to the lawsuit. Days later, detectives arranged “pretext” calls between Doe and the men they identified as her alleged attackers, the claim said.

“During the phone call, Araiza confirmed she was having sex with Doe, and even told her to get tested for STDs,” the claim said, but when she pressed him about their meeting, “Araiza immediately changed his tone and said:” This is Matt Araiza “I don’t remember anything that happened that night,” whereupon he ended the pretext conversation by hanging up on Doe,” the indictment said.

Ewaliko’s attorney, Marc Carlos, told CNN in a telephone interview that he sees some problems with Doe’s credibility and the circumstances under which she reported the event. “Filing the civil suit is clearly an attempt to pressure the DA to file a case,” he said.

According to Carlos, Ewaliko is not enrolled in the state of San Diego this semester.

Leonard’s attorney, Jamahl Kersey, said: “We are aware of the lawsuit filed yesterday and we decline to comment respectfully.” He said he could not comment on his client’s status as a San Diego state student or player.

The police department has filed its investigation with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and is under review, the DA’s office said, although officials have not indicated when a decision on the charges could be made.

CNN has also asked the police for comment.

The university released a statement saying it “takes allegations of sexual assault seriously”. but was unable to release specific details about the case due to privacy concerns, stating the allegations are still under “active university investigation”. The statement further said that a violation of the university’s student code of conduct could potentially lead to “suspension, dismissal or expulsion.”

“We were recently notified of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” said a Buffalo Bills spokesperson. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we have thoroughly investigated this matter. As this is an ongoing civil matter, we will not make any other comment at this time.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement that league officials are aware of the matter but have no additional comment.

An NFL player cannot be suspended for conduct before joining the league. But if a person is being investigated for actions that take place while they are an NFL player, past behavior may play a role in possible discipline, according to the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.

CNN’s Jill Martin and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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