NEW: Erie County district attorney says the accuser's rape kit has not been tampered with
Accuser's attorney Thomas Eoannou says he must withdraw from the case for ethical reasons
On Wednesday, Eoannou said an evidence bag containing his client's rape kit had been tampered with
The Erie County district attorney denied any claims of evidence tampering in the case of a sexual assault investigation involving NHL star Patrick Kane, calling the whole incident a “bizarre hoax” and a “dog-and-pony show.”
“It’s nuts,” said Frank A Sedita III, the Erie County district attorney. “I’ve never seen something like this before.”
The district attorney’s office has been investigating claims by a woman who says she was assaulted by Kane in early August at his New York home. The Hamburg, New York, Police Department has said it was investigating an alleged incident there. Hamburg is south of Buffalo.
The Chicago Blackhawks right-winger and his attorney deny the accusations, and Kane has not been charged.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for many people. I cannot apologize enough for the distraction this has caused my family, my teammates, this incredible organization, and of course our fans,” the hockey star said last week.
“While I have too much respect for the legal process to comment on an ongoing matter, I am confident that once all the facts are brought to light, I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong.”
The investigation into the sexual assault claim is still ongoing, after which Sedita will determine whether or not the case moves forward to the grand jury.
“The question on my mind is not when this case will go to a grand jury – the question is if this case will go to a grand jury,” Sedita said. He did not specify how this incident would affect the main sexual assault investigation.
On Wednesday, the woman’s former attorney, Thomas Eoannou, said an evidence bag had been anonymously delivered to the home of his client’s mother. He claimed that the evidence bag contained the accuser’s rape kit.
“We know this to be the evidence bag that once contained the rape kit evidence. We know this because the bag has a label on it. It contains my client’s identity,” said Eoannou on Wednesday. “It is authentic.”
Police disputed that claim, saying all evidence connected to the case was accounted for and intact.
A day later, Eoannou backtracked and withdrew from the case.
“This evening information was provided to my office, which established misrepresentations were made to me about the facts concerning the discovery of the rape evidence bag. In keeping with my ethical obligations as an officer of the court, I can no longer represent my client effectively, and am withdrawing,” Eoannou told reporters Thursday. “In my 30 years of practicing law, none of us in this profession has seen anything like (this).”
He added: “This does not in any way reflect upon what occurred on the night in question.”
After Eoannou’s decision, family members of the accuser released a statement Thursday, which CNN affiliate Time Warner Cable News Buffalo obtained.
“While we are disappointed that Mr. Eoannou has withdrawn from his role providing advice and counsel in the criminal investigation of Patrick Kane, we have every intention of pursuing this case to a just conclusion. It must be emphasized that there exists no evidence or allegation that the accuser herself had any knowledge of the existence of the ‘evidence bag’ until well after it was brought to Mr. Eoannou’s office on Tuesday afternoon.”
A 48-hour investigation
The district attorney launched an investigation after Eoannou’s Wednesday press conference to determine whether or not evidence tampering had occurred.
Eventually, Sedita says his office came to the conclusion that the forensic evidence was neither tampered with nor compromised, and that the mother of Kane’s accuser was “engaged in an elaborate hoax.”
Sedita’s investigative team interviewed the mother as part of the evidence-tampering investigation. She had a lawyer present but was not under oath.
“She denies it,” he said of the accuser’s mother. “I don’t believe her denials.
Eoannou’s claim seemed suspicious from the beginning, Sedita said. The accuser’s former attorney presented an evidence bag at the Wednesday press conference that he claimed contained the rape kit, but rape kits in Erie County are boxes – not bags – Sedita said on Friday.
“The rape kit was never in any kind of bag. The rape kit was properly sealed and properly submitted to the CPS forensic laboratory and it has never left the custody of the CPS forensic laboratory since,” he said.
“It’s been there the whole time.”
Sedita called Eoannou’s actions this past week “reckless,” but said that he thinks Eoannou was “being sincere.”
Despite the seemingly shady nature of what’s happened this week, Sedita said his office will not bring charges against the accuser’s mother, as it appears she has not broken any laws.
He said the mother’s actions, while “clearly immoral,” were “not illegal under New York law.”
“If you lie under oath, that’s a crime, all right. If you present to a court of law dummied-up evidence, that’s a crime,” Sedita said. “But my general impression is that if you go to an attorney, and you lie to an attorney, you’re not under oath and you bamboozle an attorney, and you create this manufactured ruse, it’s not a crime. But we’ll look at it to make sure.”
However, if the complainant had any knowledge of or participated in her mother’s scheme, then laws may have been broken, according to Sedita.
“That’s the important point, and that’s what we have to investigate,” he said.
Paul Cambria, Kane’s lawyer, said that Eoannou’s withdrawal points to his client’s innocence.
“I think from the statements that Mr. Eoannou made today (Thursday), somebody attempted to use him to fabricate or to obstruct and undermine the science and he obviously now has made a very clear statement that ethically he had to withdraw,” Cambria said on Thursday. “Logically it means that the integrity of the accusations has been completely undermined as a result of somebody’s efforts.”
Cambria told reporters Wednesday that he’d been told Kane’s DNA was not found on the woman “from the waist down.”
“My client maintains his innocence. So far, everything that we’ve been given from a physical evidence standpoint is consistent with what he says, and not consistent with forcible intercourse,” the attorney said.
On Sunday, the Buffalo News, citing four unnamed sources, reported that the DNA tests taken from a rape kit on the woman found none of Kane’s DNA “in the woman’s genital area or on her undergarments.”
However, the absence of DNA evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that a sexual assault did not occur. The investigation is still ongoing.
Kane’s DNA was found under the woman’s fingernails and on her shoulders, two of the sources – including one member of law enforcement – told the Buffalo News.
Sedita said he give both sides the DNA evidence because he thought it was fair.
“There were certain things in the DNA results that I felt I had an ethical obligation to provide to counsel for Mr. Kane,” he said. “And if I’m going to provide that information to counsel for Mr. Kane, in all fairness to the complainant I wanted to provide that information to her attorneys as well.”
CNN’s Tina Burnside contributed to this report.