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Bills’ Matt Araiza, 2 former college teammates named in gang-rape lawsuit

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Matt Araiza burst onto the NFL scene during preseason with his ability to punt the ball with the Buffalo Bills. On Thursday, he faced troubling accusations.

The 22-year-old special teams player, who was nicknamed the “Punt God,” was one of three people accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl while he was a student at San Diego State University last year.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court accuses Araiza of having sex with the minor outside a home and later bringing her to an off-campus party where she was repeatedly raped. 

The alleged victim, who was in high school at the time, said she was in and out of consciousness but can recall the moments where the men repeatedly assaulted her.

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Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza, left, celebrates with placekicker Tyler Bass, after Bass kicked a go-ahead field goal in the second half of a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts Aug. 13, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y.
(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Kerry Armstrong, the NFL player’s lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times the accusation was false, though he hasn’t reviewed the lawsuit. He said his investigator spoke to a separate witness who contradicts the accusation.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the paper. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza waves to fans after a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, N.Y., Aug. 13, 2022. 

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza waves to fans after a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, N.Y., Aug. 13, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

The other two men accused in the lawsuit are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko. All three players were listed on the San Diego State football roster last season. Leonard is listed on this season’s roster.

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Leonard’s lawyer, Jamahl Kersey, said no assumptions should be made about his client as the criminal investigation is still ongoing. Ewaliko’s lawyer, Marc Xavier Carlos, didn’t comment on the accusations. 

No arrests have been made in relation to the accusations. San Diego Police detectives reportedly filed their report with the San Diego County District Attorney's office to determine whether chargers will be filed against the three men.

A helmet and football on the field at Qualcomm Stadium Nov. 14, 2015, in San Diego.

A helmet and football on the field at Qualcomm Stadium Nov. 14, 2015, in San Diego.
(Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

The Bills released a statement on the accusations.

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“We 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,” the team said.

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