A supposed torn and empty evidence bag, reportedly found at the home of the mother of rape suspect Patrick Kane's accuser, is a hoax carried out by the mother. So said the Erie County District Attorney in a lengthy news conference Friday.
DA Frank Sedita III told reporters who packed a room in his office that he normally wouldn't comment on matters in an ongoing investigation. But he did so this time because the integrity of the evidence was brought into question when, on Wednesday, attorney Thomas Eoannou hosted a news conference, at which time time he presented a bag he said was an authentic rape kit evidence bag.
While the brown bag presented on Wednesday at Eoannou's office was brought to Town of Hamburg Police when the accuser went to file her complaint, Sedita explaines, it was not kept by investigators at that time.
"And the last person seen with the brown paper bag on August 2, 2015, is the same person who purportedly discovered the brown paper bag at noon, or thereabouts, on September 22, 2015, that being the complaintant's mother," Sedita said.
Sedita showed reporters images of a redacted evidence kit, a box in which the evidence is carried, and video of investigators handling the rape kit.
"The rape kit was never in any kind of bag," Sedita said. "The rape kit was properly sealed and properly submitted to the (Central Police Services) forensic laboratory. It has never left the custody of the CPS forensic laboratory since. It's been there the whole time."
Sedita also noted that in rape cases, they use boxes instead of bags. That was backed up by the attorney representing Kane, Paul Cambria, who met with reporters shortly after the DA's news conference concluded.
"In every case I’d been involved in, boxes were used as opposed to bags," Cambria said. "But not only that, that the evidence bags did not contain the actual name of someone who was complaining, as opposed to a reference number, a case number."
Eoannou withdrew his representation of the accuser late Thursday when he, too, questioned the authenticity of the story behind the discovery of the bag. Sedita called Eoannou's Wednesday afternoon news conference 'reckless' but sincere, indicating that the attorney had no part in the hoax.
Cambria concurred, saying that many lawyers have been duped by clients. He says Eoannou acted properly by withdrawing when he did.
In the meantime, the DA is questioning whether the accuser had any awareness of her mother's actions. Sedita also continues to investigate the accusations that Kane sexually assaulted her in his Hamburg home on August 2. The Buffalo native and star player for the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks has not been charged.
Cambria says his client maintains his innocence and has a lot at stake with the continuing probe.
“My client’s career, my client’s reputation, my client’s liberty. All of those are involved here to the highest level," he said. "Anybody who tries to corrupt the process and to take any one or all of those things away from him should be punished.”
Charges against the mother in connection with the bogus bag are not likely, the DA said.
Sedita also took exception to a question that suggested it was his office that has allowed the Kane investigation to turn into a media frenzy.
"This office is not responsible for this circus," Sedita said when asked by a reporter how he allowed it. "I didn't call a news conference and do what Mr. Eoannou did. I have executed my professional obligations exactly according to what the code of professional conduct says. I have not leaked any information. I have not talked about forensic testing. I have not done any of these things."
Also upset by the events leading up to Friday morning's news conference was Town of Hamburg Police Chief Greg Wickett.
"It absolutely was an insult, because we know we don't operate that way," Wickett said when asked about the claims of possible evidence mishandling. "Of course, when this came out we did double-check to make sure everything was done right. I was confident from the very get-go that it was done correctly.
"Just the fact we have to address a matter like this, that someone can make an accusation and then it's reported as if it's a fact, when it's clearly not a fact, it's very upsetting."
-Video by WBFO's Avery Schneider