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Attorney for Kane's accuser bows out of case

The bizarre story of a woman’s rape allegation against hockey star Patrick Kane took another strange twist Thursday night as the woman’s attorney abruptly removed himself from the case.

One day after holding a news conference in which he made allegations of possible evidence tampering in the case, attorney Thomas J. Eoannou held another news conference – this time announcing that he will no longer represent Kane’s accuser because someone involved in the case gave him false information about the evidence.

Eoannou said he no longer believes that someone wrongly obtained an evidence bag that once contained “rape kit” information and left it in the doorway of the home of the alleged victim’s mother.

While not giving details of the new information he has received, Eoannou said it was troubling enough that it convinced him to remove himself from the case altogether. The veteran defense attorney had represented Kane’s alleged victim since early last month, when she went to Town of Hamburg police and told them Kane had raped her.

“I lack confidence in the story that was told to me. I looked into it, and it is my decision to withdraw,” Eoannou told reporters who hastily gathered in his downtown Buffalo law office at 8:45 p.m. “I do not believe the version of events is accurate. … I’m withdrawing.”

Eoannou told reporters that his withdrawal from the case does not mean that he no longer believes the alleged victim was attacked by Kane. He said his withdrawal was only caused by his concerns over the veracity of what he was told about the evidence bag being left in the doorway of the home of the alleged victim’s mother.

The latest developments in the case outraged Kane’s attorney, Paul J. Cambria, prompting him to say that whoever was behind the fraudulent allegations of evidence tampering should be charged criminally.

Cambria added that, in his view, these developments are further proof that everything about the alleged victim’s charges against Kane are a sham.

“This case needs to go away. It’s tainted from one end to the other,” said Cambria, who also held a news conference late Thursday. “It’s obvious to me that Eoannou dropped out of the case because someone in this woman’s family lied to him about the evidence. I told you yesterday that this was a hoax, and now it’s obvious.”

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III declined to comment on the situation Thursday night, saying that he will address all the matters surrounding the evidence in a news conference in his office Friday morning.

At least one legal expert who has been watching the case closely – former State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco – believes these latest developments make it more difficult than ever for Sedita’s office and Hamburg police to build a rape case against Kane.

“This situation involving the fraudulent claims about the evidence, coupled with the information that Kane’s DNA was not found in the lower parts of this young woman’s body, make it tougher to move forward with a prosecution in this case,” Vacco said. “I still think Mr. Sedita will move forward with presenting it to a grand jury. I don’t think you can totally close the door to the possibility of a prosecution on some charge, but I think this case gets infinitely more complicated because of what has unfolded over the past 24 hours.”

When asked about the possible effects of Eoannou’s withdrawal from the case, Vacco said: “As hard as Tom Eoannou tried to separate his belief in his client from the reason he is removing himself from this case, I think the DA and the investigators would have to wonder if Tom’s lack of confidence extends to the alleged victim.”

A second top Buffalo defense attorney, Steven M. Cohen, also reacted to Eoannou’s decision.

“I respect the actions of Mr. Eoannou because it appears that ethical questions have arisen and as a responsible attorney he cannot permit himself to be a part of that,” Cohen said. “Not enough facts are known to ascertain the real situation of what has gone on. But I am certain that Frank Sedita will get to the bottom of this.”

Sedita told The News on Wednesday that he would make sure there is a “thorough and professional investigation” into the evidence-tampering claims made by Eoannou earlier that day.

After a private gathering at Kane’s $2.7 million home in Hamburg early on Aug. 2, a young Buffalo-area woman abruptly left the home, called her brother on a cellphone and claimed that Kane had raped her, sources said. The woman went to the Erie County Medical Center for a “rape kit” examination and reported to Hamburg police that Kane had raped her.

Soon after the woman made the report, her family hired Eoannou to represent her. No charges have been lodged against Kane, who hired Cambria to represent him.

On Sunday, The News reported that the physical examination of the woman showed that none of Kane’s DNA was present in her genital area, or on her undergarments. The News also reported that Kane’s DNA was found under the woman’s fingernails and on her shoulders.

Three days later – on Wednesday – Eoannou held his first news conference, alleging that a brown paper bag that had been used to hold “rape kit” evidence from the case had been found between the doors of the alleged victim’s mother’s home.

Eoannou’s statements prompted denials from Hamburg Town Police and officials of Erie County Central Police Services, who insisted that all evidence in the case was properly handled and accounted for.

At Thursday night’s news conference, Eoannou said he has since learned that the story told to him of how the evidence appeared at the home of the alleged victim’s mother was untrue. Because of that, he said, “It’s my ethical obligation to withdraw.”

Cambria said he is thankful that Sedita is conducting a full investigation into what happened to the evidence. “Eoannou clearly indicated that he was the recipient of a misrepresentation. He identified the person as a family member. It’s clear that the intent was to obstruct the investigation, to malign the integrity of the scientific findings and to harm my client in this investigation,” Kane’s attorney said. “I have complete confidence that Mr. Sedita will not take this lightly, that he is going to hold people responsible for this attempt to corrupt this investigation accountable.”

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com, cvogel@buffnews.com and lmichel@buffnews.com