Matt Araiza Signs With Top NFL Team Months After Rape Charges Dropped

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The Kansas City Chiefs are reportedly planning to sign free agent punter Matt Araiza two months after a sexual assault civil lawsuit against him was dropped, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday (February 22).

"Source: #Chiefs are signing free agent punter Matt Araiza. Araiza, a sixth-round pick in 2022, was out of football last year due to a rape lawsuit, which was dropped in December," Fowler wrote on his X account.

JL Sports, which represents Araiza, confirmed his signing in a statement shared on its X account.

"We are proud to announce that our client @matt_araiza has signed with the @Chiefs. We are grateful to Brett Veach, coach Reid and the @Chiefs organization for giving Matt this opportunity. Matt has been to hell and back in the last 18 months. He has handled himself with grace and humility that is truly inspiring. Matt can now move forward knowing that this ordeal is behind him. He is thrilled to move forward as a part of the #ChiefsKingdom," the post stated.

Araiza's civil lawsuit was dropped as part of a settlement with his accuser, his attorneys, Dick Semerdijan and Kristen Bush, announced in a statement obtained by USA TODAY in December 2023.

The agreement, which also calls for Araiza to drop his defamation lawsuit against the woman, will not result in the former Ray Guy Award winner paying the plaintiff any money.

"While we are here celebrating this victory with Matt and his family, the win is bittersweet," the attorneys said. "Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last sixteen months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back."

Dan Gilleon, an attorney representing the woman, also confirmed the settlement but didn't provide an additional comment, USA TODAY reported.

The sexual assault lawsuit and Araiza's defamation lawsuit, both of which were filed in San Diego Superior Court, will be dismissed within 10 days of the settlement agreement.

Last May, a prosecutor in the case against Araiza said he wasn't present when an alleged gang rape of a minor at a San Diego home where he had been living at the time, which is why he was never criminally charged in relation to the incident, ESPN reported at the time. Araiza, who was released by the Bills before ever appearing in an NFL regular season game following news of the allegations, was also reported to not be visible in any video footage taken from the scene, according to audio of a conversation between San Diego deputy district attorney Trisha Amador and the accuser who filed a civil lawsuit against Araiza and his former San Diego State Aztecs teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin 'Pa'a' Ewaliko.

The audio of the December 7, 2022, meeting -- which was also attended by the accuser's attorney, district attorney investigator Ted Mansour and a selected victim advocate -- obtained by ESPN was reported to total more than one hour and 41 minutes.

The meeting was intended to explain why criminal charges weren't filed against the then-San Diego State players, including Araiza, who was reported to have left the off-campus house about an hour before the alleged incident took place, according to a witness. Amador said Araiza was "alleged to have left the party at 12:30" and not "even at the party anymore," when the alleged gang rape incident reportedly took place at 1:30 a.m. local time, according to video time stamps of the footage taken from the scene.

Amador also said that no one outside of her office, including the witness who testified about Araiza's absence, knew about the specific time stamps from the video footage taken from the party.

"There's a witness who doesn't have a reason to say what time suspect Araiza left the party because nobody knows about the time stamps -- that he would've left the party prior to [a video being filmed]," Amador told the woman in the audio via ESPN.

Araiza, the Ray Guy Award -- annually given to college football's best punter -- winner in 2021, was released by the Bills in August 2022, just months after being selected in the sixth-round of the 2022 NFL Draft and being named as the team's starter days prior. The 23-year-old received national attention during his final season at San Diego State, earning the nickname 'Punt God' for his ability to boot the football 70 to 80 yards and was selected as a unanimous All-American, first-team All-MWC and MWC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2021.

Araiza did, however, inexplicably fall behind two other punters -- Penn State's Jordan Stout (No. 130 overall, Baltimore Ravens) and Georgia's Jake Camarda (No. 133, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -- which many speculated was due to NFL's teams' knowledge of the alleged situation dating back prior to the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Chiefs are just 11 days removed defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 25-22, in overtime during Super Bowl LVIII, having previously defeated San Francisco, 31-20, in Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City is also the first team since the New England Patriots in 2005 to repeat as Super Bowl champions and the ninth in NFL history.

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