Patrick Kane absolved, but only time will tell if he learned anything

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Patrick Kane can’t be the party animal he used to be, and he should use this latest incident as a learning experience. | Chris Szagola/AP

In most ways, this is a gigantic victory for Patrick Kane.

“This so-called ‘case’ is rife with reasonable doubt,” said Erie County (New York) District Attorney Frank Sedita, explaining why his office would bring no sexual-assault charges against the Blackhawks star winger.

Sedita was referring to an alleged incident that happened three months ago involving Kane and a young woman the hockey player picked up at a Buffalo bar and took back to his home in suburban Hamburg, N.Y.

The sarcasm of calling this a “so-called ‘case’ ’’ is indicative of the contempt the DA must hold for the whole bloated, overheated, impossible-to-determine mess. The difference for a young man between a multimillion dollar hockey career and the possibility of disgrace and serious prison time, all hinging on a she-said/he-said, barely credible, evidence-lacking allegation from a woman who abruptly signed off on the case, must have left Sedita bemused and ticked off.

Legal offices don’t like to be led on by false leads anymore than pro athletes do. A district attorney’s career, political future and good name all depend on him or her doing the right thing and prosecuting — and winning — the cases that need to be won.

Why did this woman bring charges in the first place?

We may never know, though the appearance of the so-called rape kit — actually just a glorified shopping bag — in the doorway of her mother’s home didn’t lend any credence to the allegations. In fact, at that moment, the idea of this all being some kind of vindictive hoax or desperate money grab occurred to most followers of the case. And it certainly occurred to Sedita.

Remember, this is the attorney who only prosecutes cases he can win. His career winning rate is 97 percent. You don’t empanel a grand jury and feed the members a bunch of hearsay and rumors and expect your citizens’ tax dollars to be spent.

That’s it from the district attorney’s side, the side that had the power to send the golden-haired, eternal “kid’’ to prison with real thugs and genuine perverts but decided not to.

However, the 21-year-old female complainant, a college student, who said the allegation process had brought tremendous stress upon her family and herself, still could file a civil lawsuit and go after money damages from Kane. This is what Ron Goldman’s family did in the O.J. Simpson case, winning the civil suit against the former NFL star after the criminal case blew up. The Goldmans and Nicole Brown Simpson’s family were awarded $33.5 million, though Simpson is broke, in prison and hardly has paid a thing.

No matter. A civil suit requires a lesser level of proof than a criminal case — “a preponderance of evidence’’ rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt’’— and if Kane were to be hit with such an action, who knows what the lawyered-up sides would agree to.

That’s the reason this is not a total victory for Kane, who is leading the Hawks in goals and points and only has said of the allegations, “I did nothing wrong.”

Maybe he didn’t, legally.

But morally, practically, reasonably, he played the fool that night. His reputation as a party boy, sometimes drunk and full-time fun-seeker precede him. Unfortunately, he has lived his gifted, erratic, “Animal House” young life in public. He never went to college, he has had smoke blown up his behind since he was a 14-year-old phenom and he’s now 26-going-on-18.

He simply can’t be like that anymore. He has to understand that fame and wealth and youth come with a difficult price: One’s privacy and the freedom to make mistakes.

Kane is single, and bars and the pick-up scene are battlegrounds where the winner seldom takes all. There are flesh wounds. There are mortal wounds. There are treaties and peace. There are doomsday bombs.

He has a girlfriend, for whatever that’s worth, which may be a lot. Restraint is the key.

There are axioms you want to imprint in this young man’s brain: Nothing good happens after midnight (though a lot of fun does.)

People don’t love you — they love your celebrity and money.

The first thing alcohol takes is your judgement.

Maybe even this: Never, ever go home with a crazy girl.

Kane may be off the hook for now. But the big question remains: Has he learned anything?

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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