The mysterious bag that led to allegations of evidence tampering in the Patrick Kane rape investigation was an “elaborate hoax” by the accuser’s mother, prosecutors said Friday.
The announcement comes two days after the accuser’s lawyer alleged an evidence bag that once contained the rape kit from the case had been anonymously left at the home of the accuser’s mother. Attorney Thomas Eoannou, however, retracted the allegation late Thursday, saying he no longer believed the account provided by the mother and therefore was ethically obligated to withdraw from the case.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita III said at a news conference Friday that the bag was given to the accuser’s mother when she accompanied her daughter to a local hospital to have a rape kit done Aug. 2. She was the last known person to have the bag, he said.
Sedita walked reporters through a detailed timeline and surveillance video, showing the rape kit’s chain of custody.
Video recordings show the kit was put in a box and never placed in bag, he said.
“The evidence in the case wasn’t tampered with nor was it compromised,” Sedita said.
Sedita said he does not expect criminal charges related to the hoax because it is not illegal to lie to a private lawyer, as he alleges the accuser’s mother did in this case.
The sideshow shouldn’t impact the ongoing sexual assault investigation either, Sedita said - unless prosecutors determine that the accuser participated in the hoax.
“That’s the important part,” Sedita said. “That’s what we have to find out.”
The news conference marked the first time Sedita has publicly acknowledged the investigation into a 21-year-old western New York woman’s claim that the 26-year-old Blackhawks winger raped her at his lakefront mansion last month. It also offered another signal that the case against Kane may be weakening, as Sedita would not commit to bring the case before a grand jury. Prosecutors canceled a scheduled grand jury proceeding in the case earlier this month and had told Kane’s lawyer that they intended to reschedule.
Sedita - who traditionally brings cases before grand juries even when he doesn’t intend to prosecute - suggested his office could also close the case administratively.
“The question in my mind isn’t when this case goes to a grand jury . it’s if this case goes to a grand jury,” he said.
To be sure, developments over the past two days suggested that the case against Kane had other significant weaknesses, including DNA evidence that Kane’s attorney said favors the player’s claims of innocence. Kane attorney Paul Cambria said Wednesday that a DNA analysis in the case found that samples taken below the accuser’s waist contain “a mixture” of male profiles. None of the DNA, he said, belonged to Kane.
He suggested that someone fabricated the evidence bag story in an effort to downplay the significance of the forensic results.
“They tried to undermine the science in the case,” Cambria said late Thursday. “That speaks volumes about the credibility of the (rape) allegation.”
Eoannou insisted the bag issue should not cast doubts on the woman’s sexual assault allegation. She still wants the case to move forward, according to a statement released by the family to Buffalo media.
The Tribune has reported that Kane spent the night of Aug. 1 at SkyBar, a popular nightclub 15 miles from his Hamburg home, and he stayed past midnight with friends. An off-duty Buffalo police officer drove Kane, a male friend, the accuser and her friend to the player’s home after leaving the bar.
Multiple sources told the Tribune that the female friend -- a college classmate -- no longer fully backs the accuser’s version of events and has expressed reluctance to testify on her behalf. Without her corroboration, it would be harder for prosecutors to move the case forward, those sources said.
An attorney for the accuser’s friend could not be reached for comment.
The Blackhawks are scheduled to be in Montreal for a preseason game Friday, but Kane and other top players will not be playing. Cambria told the Tribune earlier Thursday that he spoke with Kane about the evidence bag, but he declined to discuss the player’s reaction.
“He’s fine now that he’s playing hockey. That’s his whole life,” Cambria said. “We’re all paying attention, trying to work toward this being resolved and over.”
Jared S. Hopkins reported from Buffalo and Stacy St. Clair from Chicago