Matt Ariaza’s career was perhaps the quickest burning flame in NFL history after the star punter was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 180th overall pick, booted one of the most impressive punts in history going 82 yards during his first preseason game, earned the nickname “Punt God”, and then would never play another game.
48 hours later, Ariaza found himself at the center of a civil lawsuit a alleging he and two San Diego State football teammates participated in a gang rape of an intoxicated 17-year-old girl.
Though the Bills selected Ariaza out of SDSU knowing about the investigation, they were forced to cut him due to public pressure when the lawsuit went public.
Per Yahoo.com, the civil lawsuit claimed that during an Oct. 15, 2021, party at a home near the SDSU campus, Araiza led the girl into a bedroom where “at least three other men” waited.
“Once inside, Araiza threw [the girl] onto the bed face first,” the lawsuit read. “[The girl] went in and in and out of consciousness while” suffering through “the horrific gang rape.” It lasted an hour and a half, the lawsuit read, before she “stumbled out of the room bloody and crying” in part because “multiple piercings had ripped through the skin during the attack.”
“We just think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation,” Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane said.
Afterr conducting a 124-day investigation, it was determined that prosecutors would not pursue charges for Ariaza, though no details were revealed on exactly why, which we now know. It was confirmed that Araiza couldn’t have led the girl into the alleged gang rape because he had left the home where the incident occurred at around 12:30 a.m., an hour prior to when evidence suggested the alleged gang rape would have occurred.
“He wasn’t even at the party anymore,” deputy district attorney Trisha Amador explained to the girl. Later Amador stated of the timeline of events, “All I know is that at that point, suspect Araiza is gone from the party.”
Additionally, prosecutors told the girl that video recordings of the incident in the bedroom made it impossible to determine, let alone prosecute anyone, on whether there was a gang rape at all that night, rather than consensual sex with the other men.
“In looking at the videos on the sex tape, I absolutely cannot prove any forceable sexual assault based upon what happened,” Amador said.
The accuser’s attorney Dan Gilleon could not be reached for comment to Yahoo Sports. In a statement to Fox News Digital, Gilleon said his client won’t be “bullied” into dropping the civil lawsuit. “It’s not going to happen. This case is going to trial, and we’ll force Araiza to talk,” Gilleon said.
Gilleon told CBS8 in San Diego that the witness who prosecutors based their opinion that Araiza was not present during the alleged gang rape was a “buddy.”
The dual investigations by police and prosecutors included over 35 witness interviews (including some of the girl’s friends who came to the party with her that night), the results of a Sexual Assault Team exam conducted the following day and 10 search warrants that produced 4 terabytes of information, including numerous short videos of some of the alleged encounters.
They led authorities to come to vastly different conclusions than what was alleged in the civil lawsuit. Prosecutors explain it to the girl and her representatives in a sensitive and detailed manner during the meeting, allowing for questions and pushback from both the girl and her attorney.
Araiza, whose life has been paralyzed since being named in the civil lawsuit, hopes it’s enough for NFL teams to take a second look at him despite the civil suit still being active, according to his attorney. He and the two other players named in the suit vehemently deny any gang rape, knowledge that the girl was below California’s age of consent (18) or or whether she was intoxicated.