The dust is still settling from a shocking, raucous week for the Patrick Kane rape case. Let’s consider what’s left of it.
Last Sunday, the Buffalo News published information obtained through anonyms about the results of DNA testing done on the alleged victim. It was reportedly negative for Patrick Kane’s DNA, at least below the waist. This information is exculpatory for Kane, but not definitively so.
By Wednesday, the alleged victim’s attorney, Thomas Eoannou, held a blockbuster press conference to accuse someone of tampering with evidence, having left what Eoannou called the “rape kit bag” on the mother’s doorstep. But within minutes, all the relevant law enforcement agencies had denied that there was any irregularity in the chain of evidentiary custody. Something fishy was going on. Thursday morning, I wrote this:
Eoannou’s bag almost certainly at one point contained some piece of evidence that was obtained at ECMC on the morning the rape kit was administered. It’s feasible, for instance, that an item was stored in there but the police took it away in a different bag. What’s clear is that everyone with no stake in the outcome of the underlying rape case agrees that the rape kit hasn’t been tampered with.
By Thursday night, Eoannou had fired the complainant and her mother as his clients, and held an extraordinary press conference recanting practically everything he had said the day before. An embarrasing spectacle had been exponentially grown into a circus. Anyone’s best guess is that the mother concocted the hoax in an effort to cast doubt on the forensic evidence — an effort that would have been substantively pointless. After all, its exculpatory effect helps Kane’s defense, but so would any manufactured, phony doubt cast upon the reliability of that DNA data; the result is the same.
On Friday, District Attorney Frank Sedita held his own press conference. Clearly, Sedita was incensed by the complainant’s former legal advisor, Thomas Eoannou’s accusations about a brown paper bag; accusations that were quickly determined to be false. For a shocking period of just over 24 hours, Erie County’s law enforcement agencies were falsely made to look like bumbling incompetents. Sedita was there to set the record straight.
The press conference had all the hallmarks of a closing argument to a jury. There was a concise and persuasive PowerPoint presentation to go along with Sedita’s dramatic and emotional statements. I think that the press conference itself went on for about 30 minutes longer than necessary, and that perhaps Sedita took too many liberties in discussing the case during his Q and A. The DA now discloses exculpatory Brady material to the parties during the investigation stage — before criminal action is commenced? Sedita needed to disclose that the complainant had retained civil legal counsel? He needed to emphasize that it wasn’t a question of “when” but “if” the case is presented to a grand jury? Too long, and too much information.
Nevertheless, it quickly became clear that Sedita’s office has acted with utmost professionalism, and has not contributed in any palpable way to the unfortunate circus atmosphere surrounding the underlying case. They have behaved ethically and responsibly. Also, his office now finds itself chasing an extra, unnecessary inquiry: what did the complaining victim know about her mother’s brown paper bag hoax, and when did she know it?
What did we learn from D.A. Sedita? There was never a bag for the rape kit; the rape kit is sealed in a box, and taken to an evidence locker at central police services. He explained that the Eoannou’s brown paper bag was given to the alleged victim’s mother by a nurse at ECMC to hold an article of clothing that the complainant was wearing at the time of the supposed attack. The mother never used the bag; police took the clothing and placed it in their own evidence bag, and the mom held onto the hospital’s bag and took it home.
“What do we do with this new information?” Sedita said at the news conference. “Obviously, there’s been an effort to create a hoax. Obviously, there’s been an effort to manufacture a perception that forensic evidence cannot be trusted. I’ve got to figure out who was in on that, why they would do that and what it means for all of the other evidence. I will be doing that. We will be doing that over the course of the next few days.”
While I’ve argued that there exists no evidence at this stage to conclude that the alleged victim had any inkling of what mom was up to, others have pointed out that this is naive and stretches credulity. I prefer sworn testimony to anonymous allegations or declarations to the press, and I prefer proof to speculative conclusions. I take every media report about the case with a grain of salt. If the alleged victim is discovered to be incredible or a liar, how this case has been handled would likely dissuade future victims of sexual assult from coming forward. If you’ve seen on social media some of the visceral, homicidal hatred being slung the complainant’s way, you’d be appalled. Chicago reporter Julie DiCaro, who has reported fairly on this matter, couldn’t go to work on Friday thanks to death threats. Because hockey; because bro/rape culture.
After Sedita’s press conference, Patrick Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, invited the media over to chat. He reiterated his belief that the bag hoax establishes conclusively that the entire thing is a fabrication, and there should not be any prosecution. Specifically,
That the actual accuser knew what that bag contained. That was a very, very important fact. If you know what it contains, you witness someone claiming that it contains something else and you know it’s introduced into the legal process and you know what the consequences can be. You’re ok with that, you’re ok with a fraud being perpetrated. I think that’s a very significant fact.
He argued that the mother could be subpoenaed to testify, in which case the hoax becomes fodder for cross-examination on the issue of credibility. Cambria said that she could have committed the crime of obstruction of governmental administration, and stated that Kane was the real victim. Cambria correctly stated that Eoannou could have saved himself a ton of embarrassment by simply going to the authorities with his concerns about the brown paper bag, rather than the media.
Tom Bauerle spent two afternoons on WBEN parroting Cambria. After his presser, Cambria was caught on a hot mic saying, “Tom [Eoannou] is a good lawyer, I can’t believe he got sucked into this.” True, that.
I have no idea whether there will be any prosecution, at this point. It depends a great deal on how law enforcement assess the credibility of the complaining victim. If she knew or acquiesced in her mother’s hoax with the bag from ECMC, this case is finished. Cambria argues that she had to know, but look again at Sedita’s statement — the mother never used the bag, so the “actual accuser” feasibly wouldn’t know what, if anything, it “contained”. In any event, no one knows whether the alleged victim is culpable for the hoax any more than I know the opposite to be true; if you say she’s a cheat or a liar, you bear the burden of proof on that point.
If there is no case to be had, I will wait for the District Attorney to tell me that. Before that happens, I’m assuming that everyone involved is a rational, thinking person who would not behave completely unreasonably. So far, the complainant’s mother has proven herself to be neither rational nor thinking. As for the complainant herself, I want her guilt regarding the bag hoax - to the extent it exists - to be proven. Don’t let’s jump to conclusions about her, just like we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about Kane himself.
Anyone notice how many people directly involved or commenting publicly about this whole thing are male? Oh, it’s a tough case for the prosecution now, says former Attorney General Dennis Vacco. The alleged victim had to know what mom was up to, says Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria. The mom perpetrated a fraud so embarrassing, Eoannou held a press conference to destroy her forever, and fire her daughter as his client. Hell, here I am asking people to stop leaking information and rushing to conclusions — and I get grief about it. The few females I’ve seen actively pursuing this case are the aforementioned Julie DiCaro, whose life was threatened for daring to report objectively, occasionally, we hear from representatives from crisis services, and local attorney Florina Altshiler, who also seems to be the only person in any piece in which she’s quoted to basically urge caution and rationality from people. We need a lot more female lawyers and commentators involved with this case.
This case has been polluted by victim-shaming since day one. I think we could all benefit from hearing more women’s voices discussing this case in the mainstream media. We’re already giving Kane the benefit of the doubt by acknowledging that he remains not only not guilty of anything, but not even charged. We sit here instead contemplating what legal recourse Kane might have if absolved of wrongdoing.
Now, we wait some more, so that law enforcement can investigate an ancillary issue about a brown paper bag that never should have happened. No, this is not how these things typically go.