Lawyer: Bills investigation into Araiza did not include alleged rape survivor

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Publisher’s note: The following story is about sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The attorney for a California teenager who accused a Buffalo Bills rookie and two of his former college teammates of gang rape last fall said Friday that the The NFL has not contacted him for more details even though he said it had conducted a “thorough investigation.”

The Bills selected Matt Araiza from San Diego State in the sixth round of the NFL draft in April and named him the starting kicker this week. A person familiar with the case told the AP that the Bills were not aware of the allegations against Araiza in April. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not commented publicly on the allegations.

Executives from two different teams told the AP they learned of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the draft process, but neither person knew the extent of the allegations.

Dan Gilleon, who represents the California teen, said he hasn’t heard from team officials since he first told them about the allegations against Araiza in late July, when he says he had a phone conversation with the team counselor. Kathryn D’Angelo.

“It seemed like she was worried. She says she will contact me, and she never did,” said Gilleon, who posted and later deleted a screenshot on social media of the email she says she sent D’Angelo. “I even followed up and said, ‘Hey, you guys haven’t talked to me and called me back like you said you would.’ And they just ignored that too.”

After the Bills turned down multiple requests for comment Friday, coach Sean McDermott was clearly shaken when he addressed the situation following a 21-0 preseason loss at Carolina.

“It is a situation that is extremely serious. Just hard to get through. It is not a situation that I or we take lightly at all,” she said. “I can tell you that my heart, thoughts and prayers go out to the people involved. And that includes Matt. Include both sides here. The victim and everyone involved.”

McDermott said he was surprised and shocked by some of the revelations that have emerged over the past day, repeatedly stressing that the team has work to do. When asked what work needed to be done, he responded by saying, “It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day.”

McDermott said it was his decision not to have Araiza play, saying he felt it was not the right thing to do. While he said Araiza would travel back with the team, McDermott declined to answer a question about Araiza’s status on the roster.

Previously, the Bills’ only comment on the lawsuit came a day earlier when they said they were aware of the allegations and had conducted their own investigation.

“The facts of the incident are not what is described in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement issued through his agent, Joe Linta. “I hope I can set the record straight quickly.”

Quarterback Matt Barkley handled the team’s punting duties against Carolina.

It wasn’t clear if the Bills’ investigation was over before he was named to their opening day roster and the team’s statement provided no details, a familiar lack of transparency that brings new scrutiny into how NFL teams conduct internal reviews. of misconduct allegations.

It also comes as the NFL and the Cleveland Browns are reeling from a scandal involving quarterback Deshaun Watson. Cleveland acquired Watson in a trade with Houston and signed him to a league-record $230 million contract as he faced sexual misconduct civil lawsuits against two dozen women. Watson will serve an 11-game unpaid suspension this season, pay a $5 million fine and undergo a professional evaluation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also come under fire from members of Congress for not releasing details of an investigation into the Washington Commanders following allegations of workplace misconduct.

The Bills informed the NFL of the incident once they found out about it, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, was unsure of the timeline.

Executives who had limited knowledge of the allegations against Araiza during the draft process said it did not affect his status on the draft board because they were not interested in drafting a kicker. Executives from three other teams said they were unaware of the allegations against Araiza before the draft and only learned of the incident on Thursday. All of the people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Gilleon filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court this week accusing Araiza and two other San Diego State football players of raping a then-17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at an off-campus house. where Araiza lived. A San Diego police investigation has been turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to press charges. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said on Friday there was no timetable for how long she would make a decision.

Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said the player knew he could be the subject of accusations as early as October. It was not clear if he informed the NFL of the allegations before the draft. Armstrong cited the findings of his own investigation in denying the allegations, saying: “I don’t believe 100% that he forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was unconscious or drunk or anything like that.”

Armstrong said he shared his research findings with the Bills over the last month, long before the team gave Araiza, known as the “God of Punt” for his booming kicks in college, the starting job Monday. . He also said he told Araiza six weeks ago, when he was hired, to tell Bills officials about the allegations.

“I told him, obviously, any time you try to keep something like this a secret, they’re going to find it out anyway, so be very honest with them,” he said. “He has been. And I think that’s why he’s on the team right now.”

The NFL declined to comment except to say it was aware of the matter.

At San Diego State, one of the two remaining charged players remains on the list, but the other is not on the list. The school said it did not investigate at the request of San Diego police in October.

“After careful consideration, SDSU determined that cooperating with the criminal investigation was the appropriate action to help ensure the greatest likelihood of real consequences for anyone responsible,” the university said. A Title IX investigation launched in July is ongoing.

The Bills appear to be following the same approach they took four years ago when running back LeSean McCoy was accused of punching his ex-girlfriend during a break-in at a home he owns outside Atlanta. Despite calls to cut ties with the player, the Bills stood by McCoy, who was never charged in the matter and ultimately reached an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit filed against him.

The chances of a settlement of the case against Araiza were unclear as Gilleon and Armstrong exchanged public accusations.

Armstrong said Araiza was against settling, but the attorney said the player’s parents asked him to contact Gilleon about the possibility. Armstrong said Gilleon never responded, though Gilleon has posted on his Twitter account several text messages he said he had with Armstrong in late July.

He told the AP that he did so in response to Armstrong’s claim that his client was “committing cash theft because he’s a Buffalo Bill.”

“My client refused to entertain the idea of ​​a monetary settlement,” Gilleon wrote in a text message to the AP. “An apology, psychological counseling, a donation to charity, etc. would have been necessary, but once Kerry A. started his clown show, I realized it was futile to try to reason with him and withdrew the offer to speak. with a civil defense attorney. before filing the claim.”

Gilleon said the decision to file the lawsuit three days after Araiza was awarded the clearance job was the result of his growing frustration at the lack of feedback he was receiving from police about the progress of his investigation.

“They’re just ignoring us,” Gilleon said. “By filing a lawsuit, we have the power of subpoena and I can force them to do what they are supposed to do.”

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