(Photo: Blackhawks Facebook)
After three months of investigation in Erie County and speculation on the Internet, Erie County prosecutors announced Thursday they will not be charging Blackhawks‘ star winger Patrick Kane with rape.
“The totality of the credible evidence–the proof–does not sufficiently substantiate the complainant’s allegation that she was raped by Patrick Kane and this so-called ‘case’ is rife with reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the Office of the Erie County District Attorney will not present this matter to an Erie County Grand Jury,” District Attorney Frank Sedita, III announced Wednesday.
This came just two days after the alleged victim signed a non-prosecution affidavit, declining to go forward with criminal prosecution. Anonymous sources told The Buffalo News that she cited stress as her reasoning.
Sedita said the affidavit states, “That after fully discussing all the circumstances with my attorney, I have decided I do not wish to criminally prosecute the charges which stem out of the investigation. I do so of my own free will and without any promises or compensation.”
While a complainant’s willingness to move forward is an important aspect of pursuing criminal charges on behalf of the state, Sedita said it is not a sole determining factor.
“In other words, a complainant’s allegations, standing alone, do not trigger a criminal prosecution; nor does a complainant’s wish to withdraw charges, standing alone, determine whether a criminal case will be terminated,” he said.
Instead, investigations are evidence-based. And, despite investigating the rape claims since August, Sedita said the office didn’t have enough evidence for charges.
The statement cited several inconsistencies found in the “exhaustive” three-month investigation conducted by the Town of Hamburg Police Department and the Office of Erie County:
- There are significant material inconsistencies between the complainant’s accounts and those of other witnesses.
- The DNA results lend no corroboration whatsoever to the complainant’s claim of penetration, a required element of proof for a rape charge.
- The physical evidence and the forensic evidence, when viewed in tandem, tend to contradict the complainant’s claim that she was raped on Kane’s bed.
- Although Kane has exercised his constitutional right to remain silent (which prohibits questioning by law enforcement), he has made no known incriminating statements to any civilian, nor has he engaged in any conduct consistent with a consciousness of guilt.
Police searched Kane’s home the morning after the woman allegedly left his home in a panic and went to the hospital to have a rape kit performed.
The rape kit would make the case even more dramatic when the accuser’s mother presented her attorney with a torn evidence bag she claimed was left at her front door–possibly as a threatening statement or to hint at evidence tampering in the wake of claims DNA did not match Kane.
The alleged victim’s attorney, Thomas Eoannou, held a press conference regarding the bag only to later find out all evidence was accounted for and that the mother had been given the bag to bring some of the daughter’s clothing to add to her kit, but instead misrepresented it to her attorney. He showed the bag on television without censoring the alleged victim’s name.
Eoannou then recused himself, citing ethical reasons and claiming he could not trust his client.
In September, the Erie County District Attorney’s office convened a grand jury, but it was postponed when witnesses allegedly declined to participate. It never reconvened. And, Monday, the accuser signed the non-prosecution affidavit.
“Our investigation agrees with the District Attorneys’ and I am not surprised that they are not going forward,” Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria, told NBC Chicago.
“We maintained Patrick’s innocence all along,” Cambria said. “It’s time to put this in the past.”
The state’s decision may be a relief–a relief, obviously, to Kane himself and his loved ones. It’s certainly a relief to the Blackhawks and the business that is the NHL.
It shouldn’t be thought of as a victory, though. No one wins here.
A lot of people have gone through hell for the past three months.
The accuser’s name has become public knowledge and she claims to have been stressed enough to back out of the case. Foul things are written about her all over social media.
Following notice of the investigation, Kane stayed at home until training camp. He canceled his Buffalo celebration day with the Stanley Cup, which included a visit to a women’s and children’s hospital, instead taking it to his grandfather’s grave and then having a lowkey event at his home with family and select friends.
In Kane’s awkward September Training Camp press conference, he noted how incredibly difficult the time had been for many people. He apologized to his family, teammates, the Blackhawks organization, and fans. He was steadfast in his confidence that the facts of the case would absolve him.
And, since then, he finished camp, participated in the Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony, and has been an active part of the Hawks roster so far this season.
He has 18 points and is a plus-9 in 13 games.
Kane was also active in Chicago’s Hockey Fights Cancer program Wednesday.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) November 5, 2015
“We respect the announcement today by the Erie County (N.Y.) District Attorney regarding Patrick Kane,” the Blackhawks said in a written statement. “The Chicago Blackhawks organization has taken this matter very seriously, and has tried to navigate a very sensitive situation while continually respecting the legal proceedings. At this time we will have no further comment.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league is reviewing the matter.
“In light of the statement issued today by the Erie County District Attorney’s office, as an internal league matter, we intend to promptly review the information that may now be available to us,” he said in a statement. “We will have no further comment until we have completed that review.
Today and Going Forward
Today, for many, is also just another reminder of rape. It’s another reminder–even if this case is not the exact representation–of the many rapists who remain free of charges and prosecution.
So, before name-calling or gloating, even in jest, I urge fellow Blackhawks fans to think about the seriousness of the allegations.
Think about the seriousness of rape. Remember that very few sexual assaults are violent attacks by strangers. It is usually someone known or somehow trusted.
Perhaps make a bigger gesture and talk to people you know, see for yourself how many are victims of sexual assault or abuse or how many know someone who is. If they’re willing to tell you the truth, it’s far more than you think.
Ask about how they handled it and why they did or didn’t pursue legal action.
Consider that a victim must surrender her (or his) body for photographs, internal and external exams, and lines of questioning about sexual history after experiencing the single-most violating invasion. The victim must then defend every choice in the past and leading up to that moment–previous relationships, wardrobe, flirting, drinking, etc.
So, no, many victims do not come forward. Many victims do not follow through the whole process. Many back out for any number of reasons.
And, today, many of these victims are seeing a high profile rape case fall out of the justice system. For the last three months, they’ve seen an alleged victim called all sorts of terrible things as rumors were leaked and/or fabricated. They may be feeling that another victim has been failed and that another celebrity has gotten away with something. Or, they may be feeling betrayed by someone who may have brought false rape charges forward in a high profile case.
The latter is, indeed, a rare occurrence. It’s one I don’t want to accept as a woman or as a sister. As a woman, I want to be able to stand behind victims. I want to support them and give them a voice–knowing how difficult it is to come forward. On the other hand, as a sister, I’m terrified the potential for that deception truly does exist.
Right now, whether this is being interpreted as a justice system fail or the ultimate betrayal, it makes it that much worse for future victims.
Out of respect to these people and those who care about them–consider quietly being grateful the case is over. Remember that rape isn’t funny, so “jokes” won’t be either.
If fans want to rally behind something, here’s a campaign where we can all work together to keep everyone safe.
It’s also my hope that in the near future Kane and the Blackhawks take a little extra initiative in movements against sexual assault or show support for crisis centers for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. It never hurts to show you really do care.