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Criminal investigation of Patrick Kane takes series of strange twists

Thomas J. Eoannou, a lawyer for a woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, holds up what he says is an empty evidence bag that was improperly left in the doorway of the woman's mother's home, during a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Buffalo, N.Y. Eoannou said the bag at one point contained the rape kit used when the woman reported that she had been assaulted. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

The criminal investigation of Blackhawks star Patrick Kane took a series of strange twists Wednesday as the lawyer for Kane’s accuser said an evidence bag that once contained the woman’s rape kit was delivered to the alleged victim’s mother and had apparently been tampered with.

But just a few hours later, two law enforcement agencies — the Erie County agency overseeing the evidence and the police department investigating the allegations — said the rape kit remained in its original packaging and that the chain of custody is “unassailable.”

“It is authentic,” attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said Wednesday at a news conference in his law office in Buffalo, noting the evidence bag is properly labeled with his client’s name, her birth date, the location where the rape kit was performed and the initials of the nurse who conducted the exam.

The mother of the alleged victim found the bag about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after returning home from lunch, Eoannou said, adding that it could have been lying there — between the storm door and the front door of her Buffalo home — for as long as a day and a half because she hadn’t used the front door for that long.

“It was folded up in a number of small squares almost like it was meant to be thrown out,” he said. “Absolutely nothing in it.”

“There was no doorbell, no knock,” he said.

Eoannou called for an independent investigation into the incident to be conducted, perhaps by state police or the FBI.

“Hopefully they get to the bottom of how this bag got opened, by whom and when, where the real evidence is — and it is established why anyone would have incentive to tamper with a rape kit,” he said.

“This is a case about physical evidence and the rape kit evidence bag has been tampered with,” he said.

But Erie County Commissioner of Central Police Services John Glascott issued a statement after the news conference, saying: “All evidence related to this case that was given to Erie County Central Police Services by the Town of Hamburg Police Department is accounted for and remains in its original packaging in the possession of Erie County Central Police Services. This includes the evidence in the rape kit and the packaging itself. This evidence has been analyzed and reports of that analysis sent to the appropriate agencies.”

On its Facebook page, the Town of Hamburg police department also issued a statement, saying it would cooperate with any investigation regarding the evidence.

But it added that the department “has documentation that unequivocally demonstrates that its handling of the evidence and the integrity of its chain of custody of evidence in this case is unassailable.”

Eoannou later issued a statement saying he was not questioning whether the Erie County Central Police Services “has the evidence they were ‘given’ still in their custody or whether it was given to them in an evidence bag.”

“Our question is where a bag with an [Erie County Medical Center] label identifying our client, affixed to an evidence bag used in rape kits, ended up out of police custody,” he said. “It raises questions regarding the chain of custody and integrity of evidence in the period between the [medical center] examination and [the Erie County Central Police Services].”

Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria, said he would welcome an investigation of the bag incident.

“Only someone who is unhappy with the DNA results would have a motivation to claim that it’s compromised,” Cambria said. “We are obviously quite pleased with the DNA results.”

Cambria said both sides in the case have been told that none of Kane’s DNA was found “from the waist down” on the woman.

Eoannou would not speculate on why anyone would anonymously deliver the evidence bag. But he did acknowledge that if someone wanted to scuttle the prosecution, tampering with evidence is one way to go about it.

However, he thanked whoever anonymously delivered the evidence bag, and asked for that person to reach out to authorities.

“Maybe some good Samaritan came forward and provided that to us to give us a tip as to what’s going on,” he said.

Eoannou said he had no comment on what took place the night of Aug. 2, when his client, a woman in her 20s, allegedly was sexually assaulted by Kane at his lakefront home in the City of Hamburg, a suburb of Buffalo.

The two met at a rooftop bar in Buffalo before heading to a gathering at Kane’s home.

Eoannou said that leaks to the media have amounted to victim bashing.

“This is supposed to be a secret investigation,” he said. “This is a classic example of why rape victims don’t come forward in rape cases. This is the worst example of victim bashing that I have seen.”

But Eoannou said his client is still cooperating with authorities and willing to testify.

“We would hope very much that a criminal case is going forward,” he said.

He said he was uncertain when the grand jury would begin hearing evidence in the case after proceedings were postponed two weeks ago.

Eoannou said he would have the torn evidence bag — which he displayed at the news conference — independently tested for DNA and would be willing to turn it over to law enforcement.

“In my 30 years plus of being both a prosecutor and defense attorney, I have never seen an evidence bag outside of a police lab, a prosecutor’s office or a courtroom, let alone find one in the doorway of a rape victim’s mother’s home.”

When asked about reports the two parties are in settlement talks that could potentially bring an end to the criminal investigation, Eoannou said he was not involved.

“I do not know the nature of any monetary discussions between the parties,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks played Wednesday night when the team took on the Red Wings in Detroit. However, Kane was not on the roster in order to make room for new players the team is testing out.

Kane did play the previous evening and had a highlight-making assist in overtime to help lift the Blackhawks over the Red Wings in the preseason opener at the United Center.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Wednesday: “Kane’s status with the league remains unchanged at this point. We have no comment on today’s press conference.”

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles, Mark Lazerus, AP