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Matt Araiza gang-rape lawsuit: Attorneys for both sides trade public barbs

Matt Araiza’s attorney took to TV while his accuser fought back on Twitter and spoke with The Athletic.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

With his client facing a civil lawsuit and potential criminal charges stemming from an October 2021 gang-rape accusation while a member of the San Diego State football team, the attorney for Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza went on the CBS affiliate in San Diego Thursday night. In this sit-down, which lasted more than seven minutes, criminal defense attorney Kerry Armstrong answered questions from the anchor about the incident.

Armstrong said he was hired just six weeks ago by the Araiza family, which starts to fill in a timeline of his knowledge base, both of the situation and the conversation with the Buffalo Bills. Many of the details he shares from the night in question come via a private investigator he hired who conducted interviews more than nine months after the alleged incident occurred.

Content warning: This story contains graphic details of rape and sexual violence.

“He is 100% adamant that he never forcibly raped this young lady or forcibly had sex with her in any type of way or had sexual relations with her when she was intoxicated, be it alcohol and/or drugs,” opened Armstrong.

Armstrong says Araiza didn’t give the accuser a drink or intoxicating substance and “she was not visibly intoxicated when he was speaking to her.” He goes on to say she wasn’t slurring or stumbling. That wasn’t the only thing the lawyer argued with from the civil complaint.

“This was not Matt Araiza’s residence, [so] that’s in dispute.”

Concerning the Buffalo Bills, Armstrong says he has been communicating with the team for the last six weeks, lining up with his hiring by Araiza to defend him in the criminal matter. He was also asked directly about what NFL teams knew before the 2022 NFL Draft, where the Bills selected Araiza in the sixth round.

“Did he inform the NFL of the investigation before the draft?” asked the interviewer.

“You better believe he did,” responded Armstrong.

If that’s the case, that information didn’t filter down to NFL teams, according to Tim Graham of The Athletic citing sources from around the NFL including the Bills. Graham also mentions that players have been disinvited or not invited to the NFL Combine for much less serious infractions, so it would stand to reason the NFL and NFL teams had no idea these accusations were pending against Araiza at the time of the NFL Draft.

“I don’t know what information the Bills had at the time when they actually selected him in the draft,” said Armstrong. “I do know that I have kept them up to date recently about some of the case, so I think they have a decent enough understanding of what the allegations are.”

Update: Armstrong reached out to ESPN to clarify the quote and timeline:

“I don’t know. I don’t think it was before the draft,” Armstrong said. “I’m almost certain it was after. Apparently I said that, so that was a mistake. But he was forthcoming with the Bills, but I don’t think it was until after he was drafted because he didn’t know that this was ever going to go anywhere until the L.A. Times article came out, I think around, whatever it was, five or six weeks ago.”

That L.A. Times article was published June 3rd, nearly twelve weeks before the civil lawsuit came to light, not six.

End update.

If the Bills found out about it six weeks ago when Armstrong was hired, it was before training camp opened and certainly before any decision had been made in the punter competition. Buffalo released Matt Haack earlier this week, seemingly awarding Araiza the punting/holding job. The timing of the lawsuit seems to have piqued Armstrong’s interest.

“I think that’s pretty obvious [why someone would make these claims now],” said Armstrong. “He’s now a member of the Buffalo Bills. He just got on the team two or three days ago and I think this is a money grab on her part. I know that’s probably going to be heavily disputed by her attorney, but deep pockets for someone who is in the NFL and I think she sees some dollar signs at the end of the highway.”

The accuser’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, disputes this money-grab timeline, saying Armstrong offered to settle the lawsuit on Aug. 1, before Araiza was named the team’s punter. He provided time-stamped text messages with Armstrong’s team to prove it.

“His criminal attorney says my client claimed rape when he was in college because he is ‘now a Buffalo Bill.’ Huh? Araiza offered us ‘cash’ before he made the cut. We ignored the bush-league offer and filed a case,” tweeted Gilleon.

It should also be noted that the accuser didn’t know it was Matt Araiza when she originally made the criminal complaint, according to Graham. Accusing him in October 2021 instead of after the 2022 NFL Draft or after he made an NFL roster would seem to torpedo his chances of making significant dollars to be mined for a big civil suit pay day, as well.

“Based on what I’ve learned so far, she didn’t know who Araiza was until the police helped her with the pretext calls and his ex-teammates told her with the police listening in.”

For what it’s worth, Gilleon also called the Bills’ attorney, Kathryn D’Angelo, a “class act” who “denied knowing about the allegations.” They spoke via email once on July 31st and had a long phone call the next day. He did not share similar kind words about the Bills organization.

“This was a horrific crime, the kind of which happens all too often,” Gilleon said in a statement. “What makes these crimes different is not only that they were committed by self-entitled athletes. Just as awful as the crimes, for months, multiple organizations — SDSU, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney, and now the Buffalo Bills — have acted the part of enablers looking the other way in denial that my client deserves justice even if the defendants are prized athletes.”

Gilleon also told Graham Friday morning that the Bills never reached out to him or his client during their recent self-described “thorough examination” of the incident. The last time Gilleon spoke with anyone from the team was the August 1st phone call with the team’s attorney.

“Never heard from them again,” Gilleon told Graham.

Another explanation for the timing is the conclusion of the criminal investigation by the San Diego Police Department, who recently gave their report to the district attorney. With the investigation no longer possibly tainted, the accuser could move forward with the civil complaint and not damage the concurrent criminal process.

Armstrong, the criminal defense attorney, is confident Araiza won’t be charged criminally and noted Araiza will be hiring a civil defense attorney in the coming days.

You can watch the full interview embedded below.

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