The paper bag that attorney Thomas Eoannou told reporters Wednesday was a “rape kit evidence bag” is no such thing, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said Friday following a week of explosive developments in the NHL star Patrick Kane rape investigation.
It wasn’t a rape kit, at all.
“We believe that a person, the complainant’s mother, has engaged in an elaborate hoax,” said Sedita.
Eoannou had told reporters that the bag was found Tuesday afternoon by the victim’s mother, sandwiched between the storm door and her front door. She called Eoannou about the bag, who called a news conference Wednesday night to announce the bizarre discovery and insisting it was not a hoax.
Sedita explained Friday to a crowded room filled with reporters and photographers that his investigators learned over the last 48 hours that the bag is actually a hospital bag given to the mother of the alleged victim at Erie County Medical Center.
On Aug. 2, hours after the alleged rape in Kane’s house in Hamburg, the alleged victim went to her mother’s house where she changed her “top,” Sedita said.
She put on a new top, and then she and her mother went to ECMC to undergo a forensic sexual assault examination, Sedita said.
At the hospital, the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) learned that the alleged victim had changed her top, Sedita said. Clothing can provide important forensic evidence, including DNA and hair strands, so the nurse asked the mother to take the bag home with her and put the article of clothing into it and told her a police officer would come get it. The bag had a label from ECMC with the victim’s name and date of birth on it.
According to Sedita, the mother admitted to investigators that she had been offered such a bag but denied she took it with her.
Hamburg police investigators went to the mother’s house later that day and asked for the top.
According to Hamburg Police Chief Greg Wickett, who spoke after the news conference, the investigators saw the hospital bag. The investigator said he wanted to put the top in a police evidence bag instead and put the top into his evidence bag.
Thursday night, Eoannou called a news conference to announce he was no longer representing the alleged victim.
“I lack confidence in the story that was told to me,” he told reporters that night, referring to what he was told about the mother’s discovery of the bag.
Sedita on Friday said it was “unlikely” his office would press charges against the mother.
“If you lie to your lawyer, it’s not a crime,” Sedita said. The mother did not report the incident to police, nor did she make the statements under oath.
But he said the investigation into the apparent hoax would continue.
He said there could be charges if he discovers that the alleged victim was involved in perpetrating the hoax.
Sedita also indicated that the investigation about the rape allegations themselves may end without an arrest, but that the investigation still is not over.
“The question in my mind is not whether this will go to the grand jury. The question is if,” he said.
Sedita said he knew something was off with the story about the “rape evidence bag” from early on.
Rape kits in Erie County aren’t bagged, he said.
“It’s a box,” he said, holding up a white cardboard box issued at hospitals for use in sex assault exams. The boxes contained a sealed bag that holds many small envelopes used to collect physical evidence: swabs, fingernail scrapings, hair and other items.
“The rape kit was never in any kind of bag, Sedita said, “and it has never left the custody of ... the laboratory since.”
As proof, he showed surveillance video of a detective delivering the rape kit to Erie County Central Police Services in downtown Buffalo, where forensic lab work is done. It shows the detective checking in and putting the box into a locker.
Sedita, known for being tight-lipped about ongoing investigations, said it was time for him to break his silence, stating that “the issue here is the integrity of the criminal justice system and the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system.”
“This office is not responsible for this circus,” he said.
Late Thursday night, family members of the alleged rape victim issued a statement announcing plans to continue efforts to seek justice for the young woman.
Here is the statement in its entirety:
“While we are disappointed that Mr. Eoannou has withdrawn from his role providing advice and counsel in the criminal investigation of Patrick Kane, we have every intention of pursuing this case to a just conclusion.
“It must be emphasized that there exists no evidence or allegation that the accuser herself had any knowledge of the existence of the ‘evidence bag’ until well after it was brought to Mr. Eoannou’s office on Tuesday afternoon. A further statement regarding that matter will be made after the district attorney’s press conference tomorrow.”