Bills’ investigation of Araiza did not include the alleged victim

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BUFFALO, NY (AP) – The attorney for a California teenager who charged a Buffalo Bills rookie and two of his former college gang-rape teammates last fall, said Friday that the NFL team had not contacted him for further details despite having 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 their starting punter this week. A person familiar with the matter told the AP that the Bills were unaware of the allegations against Araiza in April. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not publicly commented on the allegations.

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

Dan Gilleon, who represents the California teenager, said he had not heard from team officials since he first informed them of the allegations against Araiza in late July, when he said he had a phone conversation with team attorney Kathryn D’Angelo.

“She looked worried. She says she’ll get back to me, but she never did,” said Gilleon, who posted and then deleted a screenshot on social media of the email he says he sent to D’Angelo.” I even followed up and said, ‘Hey, you didn’t talk to me and call me back like you said.’ they just ignored it too. “

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

“It is an extremely serious situation. Just hard to cross. This is not a situation that I or we take lightly,” he said. “I can tell you this from my heart, my thoughts and prayers are with those involved. And that includes Matt. It includes both sides here. The victim and everyone involved.

McDermott said he was surprised and shocked by some of the revelations that came out over the past day, and repeatedly stressed that the team had work to do. When asked what work needs 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 play Araiza, saying he felt it was the wrong thing to do. While he said Araiza would return 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 saying they were aware of the allegations and conducted their own investigation.

“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in a statement released by his agent, Joe Linta. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”

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

It was unclear whether the Bills investigation was complete before they named him on their opening roster and the team’s statement provided no details, a familiar lack of transparency that raises new scrutiny over the 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 record $230 million contract as he faced civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct against two dozen women. Watson this season will serve an 11-game unpaid suspension, pay a $5 million fine and undergo a professional evaluation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also come under heavy criticism from members of Congress for not disclosing details of an investigation of Washington commanders following allegations of workplace misconduct.

The Bills informed the NFL of the incident once they were made aware of it, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, was unsure of the timeline.

Leaders who had limited knowledge of the charges against Araiza during the selection process said it did not affect his status on their selection committee as they were not interested in selecting any of them. a bettor. Leaders of three other teams said they had no knowledge 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 due to the sensitivity of the issue.

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 17-year-old girl at a Halloween party in an off-campus house where Araiza lived. A San Diego police investigation has been assigned to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to proceed with the prosecution. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said Friday there was no timeline as to how long a decision will take.

Araiza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, said the player knew he could be the target of allegations since October. It was unclear if he informed the NFL of the allegations prior to the draft. Armstrong cited the findings of his own investigation in denying the allegations, saying: “I don’t 100% believe that he ever forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk. or something like that.”

Armstrong said he shared the findings of his investigation with the Bills over the past month, long before the team blamed Araiza, known as the ‘Punt God’, for his kicks in the middle boom in college, starting post Monday. He also said he told Araiza six weeks ago when he was detained to speak to Bills officials about the allegations.

“I told him, obviously, anytime you try to keep something like this a secret, they’re going to find it anyway, so be very honest with them,” he said. “He was. And I think that’s why he’s in 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 unlisted. The school said it did not investigate at the request of the San Diego police in October.

“After careful consideration, SDSU has determined that cooperation with the criminal investigation is the appropriate action to help ensure the greatest likelihood of actual consequences for anyone found 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 beating up his former girlfriend during a burglary at a home he owned in New York. exterior of Atlanta. Despite calls to cut ties with the player, the Bills stood behind McCoy, who was never charged in the case and ultimately reached an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit against him.

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

Armstrong said Araiza was against reaching a settlement, but the attorney said the player’s parents asked him to contact Gilleon regarding the possibility. Armstrong said Gilleon never responded, although Gilleon posted on his Twitter account several text exchanges he said he had with Armstrong in late July.

He told the AP he did so in response to Armstrong alleging his client “was seizing money because he’s a Buffalo Bill.”

“My client refused to consider the idea of ​​a monetary settlement,” Gilleon wrote in a text to the AP. “It would have taken an apology, psychological counseling, a donation to charity, etc., but once Kerry A. started his clown show, I realized there was no point in trying to reason with him. and I have withdrawn the offer to speak with a civil defense attorney before filing charges.”

Gilleon said the decision to take legal action three days after Araiza got the punting job was the result of his growing frustration with the lack of feedback he was getting from police about the progress of their investigation.

“They just blow us up,” Gilleon said. “By taking legal action, we have the power to subpoena and so I can force them to do what they’re supposed to do.”

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Associated Press writer Julie Watson, AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi and AP Sports writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.

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