Woman accusing former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza, 2 others of rape speaks out

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The woman who has accused ex-NFL punter Matt Araiza and two of his college teammates of raping her during a party last year talked about the alleged incident in an interview with "Nightline."

The alleged victim, who was 17 at the time of the incident and asked not to be identified, said the sexual assault took place last year during an off-campus party at San Diego State University and she said it lingers in her mind.

She is suing Araiza, who was released by the Buffalo Bills last week, and two former San Diego State football players, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin Ewaliko, accusing them of gang-raping a minor. The alleged victim says she wants charges filed and the men arrested.

"I'm really just looking for the closure, because I can't stop thinking about it," the woman told "Nightline."

The alleged gang rape took place during a party on Oct. 17, 2021, according to the lawsuit. The victim was a high school student at the time while Araiza, 21, and Leonard and Ewaliko, both 18, were on the San Diego State football team.

The alleged victim told "Nightline" she was intoxicated, in and out of consciousness that night, but there were several blocks of the night that she remembers "like they were just yesterday."

The alleged victim said that she talked with Araiza outside of the house, where he gave her a drink and performed sex acts on her.

After that initial encounter, the alleged victim said she was led back inside into a bedroom, according to the lawsuit.

"When I walked into that room and I saw that there were several guys already in there, I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen, and I expected it," she said.

There she said Araiza and his teammates violently gang-raped her, leaving bruises and bloody marks. She also said her piercings were ripped out. The victim told "Nightline" that she never once gave the men her permission for sex and said she was screaming during the incident.

"I feel like it should be clear to anybody that that's not consensual sex," she said.

The alleged victim said she contacted the police the next morning, filed a report and went to the hospital.

She said she didn't initially know the identities of her alleged attackers.

Detectives in the sex crimes unit arranged recorded pretext calls with the men who were believed to be in the room when the gang rape took place. The alleged victim said that Araiza was on one of those calls.

"He told me that we had hooked up and he told me that I should get tested for chlamydia. I then was told by my detectives to clarify what he meant by hookup, and so I asked him if we had had actual sex and his tone completely changed from that point," she said.

The alleged victim said that Araiza then denied having sex before hanging up, as was alleged in the complaint

The police finished their investigation in early August and turned it over to the San Diego District Attorney's office.

No arrests have been made in the case, and police have not publicly identified any suspects.

"This case remains under review by our office for potential criminal charges," the San Diego DA's office told ABC News in a statement.

Araiza was signed by the Buffalo Bills as a sixth-round draft pick in April with a $4 million contract.

The victim said she threw up after hearing the news of Araiza's signing.

"I was really upset because I thought that I had been doing everything that I was supposed to be doing in order to get them to face consequences," she said. "I reported it right away and I was giving all my evidence to authorities and just to see him continuing on and thriving while I felt like my life was completely torn apart."

The alleged victim's attorney, Dan Gilleon, said he was in touch with the Bills in July about the suit. On Aug. 27, two days after the lawsuit was filed, the Bills released Araiza.

Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said in a statement that "our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games."

"At this time, we just think it's the best move for everyone to move on from Matt," Beane said.

The accuser said the Bills and the NFL did the right thing by releasing him from the team.

"I can understand why [the NFL] might get backlash from those that may not believe what happened, but I know they did the right thing," she said.

Araiza, however, has denied the accusations via a statement through his attorney.

"The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight," he said.

His attorney, Kerry Armstrong, released an additional statement contending the suit is a "money grab."

"He is 100% adamant that he never forcibly raped this young lady or forcibly had sex with her in any type of way," Armstrong said.

Armstrong also said in an interview with local station KFMB that his client did not know the victim was underage or intoxicated.

"He never gave her a drink, never gave her any intoxicating substance and she was not visibly intoxicated when he was talking to her," he told the station.

Arazia's parents also released a statement Monday defending their son and condemning the media.

"He has been extorted, discriminated against, harassed and the subject of multiple and continuous threats of violence and death. We have all been canceled. Every member of our family," they said in their statement.

Marc Carlos, the attorney for Ewaliko, told ABC News his client denies the allegations while Jahmal Kersey, the attorney for Leonard, declined to comment about the accusations.

The alleged victim said even though she was intoxicated at the party her actions should not be used to minimalize what happened to her that night.

"I know I made mistakes that night. However, I don't think that any sort of mistakes deserves what was done to me that night, and they still need to be held accountable for what they did," she said.

The alleged victim said she'll get real closure if arrests are made.

"I know this is something that's going to stick around forever, but I think the closure will help. And I really do hope that I get it," she said.

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