Prosecutors dropped a rape investigation against Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane on Thursday, citing a lack of credible evidence in a case "rife with reasonable doubt" and said the accuser no longer wanted to cooperate.
New York's Erie County district attorney Frank Sedita said a three-month investigation found that physical and forensic evidence "tend to contradict" the accuser's claim that she was raped last Aug. 2 at Kane's off-season home outside Buffalo.
"The DNA results lend no corroboration whatsoever to the complainant's claim," said Sedita, who decided against presenting the case to a grand jury for possible charges. Sedita said the 21-year-old accuser had recently signed an affidavit saying she did not want to press charges.
"The totality of the credible evidence — the proof — does not sufficiently substantiate the complainant's allegation that she was raped by Patrick Kane," Sedita said, "and this so-called 'case' is rife with reasonable doubt."
The decision ends a high-profile investigation that led to Kane's removal from the cover of a popular NHL video game, and chants of "She said no!" and "No means no!" during a couple of early road games for the Blackhawks and their star winger, a former No. 1 overall draft pick.
"I have repeatedly said that I did nothing wrong," Kane was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Blackhawks. "I have respected the legal process and I am glad that this matter has now been closed and I will have nothing further to say going forward."
"We knew all along that Patrick didn't do anything wrong," his agent, Pat Brisson, said in a text to The Associated Press. "We are pleased with the results from the investigation. It's finally concluded."
A person who answered the accuser's mother's cellphone hung up Thursday when contacted by The AP. The accuser's lawyer, Roland Cercone, did not immediately return a message left seeking comment.
The Blackhawks were traveling to New Jersey for a game Friday night and released a statement that said, in part, that the 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 in a statement that the league intends to "promptly review the information that may now be available to us. We will have no further comment until we have completed that review."
Top young star
The case dominated headlines in Buffalo and Chicago for weeks. At 26, Kane is one of the NHL's top young stars and he has won three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago over the past six years, including last season. He had been in trouble before, too, arrested after an altercation with a cab driver in Buffalo in the summer of 2009, and photos of him partying are easily found online. But the assault case was by far the most serious allegation Kane had faced.
Kane's day to be spent with the Stanley Cup was Aug. 8, but he called off a public display of the iconic trophy because of the investigation and instead spent the day with his family and friends.
He stayed out of sight after the investigation became public, and then reported to training camp with the rest of the Blackhawks in September. With the team facing heavy criticism for allowing him to play during the investigation, the star winger was joined by top Blackhawks executives for an awkward news conference where he said he would be absolved of any wrongdoing and brushed aside any questions that touched on the situation.
"The very difficult part of this is when you are basically an international sports star, and as a result, a likely target," Kane's attorney, Paul Cambria, said Thursday. "And you have to go through three months of reading things in the media that you know are not true, and they're hurtful things and accusatory things. That's a very difficult burden to bear."
On and off the ice, though, there have been no public signs of any strain or frustration from Kane. He has a point streak of eight games and leads Chicago with eight goals and 10 assists. When asked about the investigation this season, he has mostly stuck with polite comments that he was simply waiting for the prosecutor's decision.
"After a thorough investigation, we agree with the district attorney. We're not surprised that they did not go forward," Cambria said. "And I agree that the case is rife with doubt."
Signs of trouble appeared in September when, in a strange series of events, the accuser's attorney, Tom Eoannou, announced that the woman's mother had found an empty evidence bag in her doorway. The attorney quit the case a short time later, saying he no longer believed the mother's story. Sedita called the episode, apparently meant to cast doubt on how evidence in the case had been handled, "a bizarre hoax."