A grand jury review of rape allegations against National Hockey League superstar Patrick Kane was abruptly postponed Tuesday as financial settlement talks between attorneys for Kane and his alleged victim continued, according to several sources familiar with the investigation.
“They have been in settlement discussions and both say they want their day in court, but both have vacillated from time to time and also said: Let’s just resolve it,” one of the sources said Tuesday.
Three current and former law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case confirmed that Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III postponed beginning the grand jury review, which was set to start at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Two of those sources and a third individual close to the case confirmed settlement talks are ongoing.
Sedita declined to comment on the Kane matter. “Grand jury proceedings are secret and as I have said on many occasions, I neither confirm nor deny or even comment upon the existence or nonexistence of an investigation until such time as someone is charged with a crime,” Sedita said.
Training camp for Kane and his Chicago Blackhawks teammates is scheduled to begin Sept. 18 at the University of Notre Dame, but whether that plays into the decision to negotiate a settlement could not be determined.
Kane’s attorney, Paul J. Cambria Jr., and the alleged victim’s attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, could not be reached to comment Tuesday, but in the past, they have steadfastly declined to discuss the case.
No criminal charges have been filed against 26-year-old Kane, a South Buffalo native and one of the biggest stars in professional hockey. He has been accused by the young woman of sexually assaulting her in his lakeside Hamburg mansion after meeting her at a downtown Buffalo bar early last month. Town of Hamburg police and the District Attorney’s Office have been working together in investigating the allegations.
Former Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said he was surprised and baffled to learn about the postponement of grand jury proceedings.
“I was surprised, very surprised,” said Clark, who worked closely for many years with Sedita when Sedita was his lead homicide prosecutor.
Clark said he could think of three possible reasons why Sedita would delay presentation of evidence.
“I have delayed presenting a case to a grand jury in the past, and usually the reason is that the defendant’s attorney came to me and said, ‘Please, don’t present this, let’s work out some kind of plea deal,’ ” Clark said. “And we worked out a plea deal.”
Based on everything he has heard about the Kane case, Clark said it appears highly unlikely that Cambria is trying to work out a guilty plea for his client.
“The second possibility is the victim’s attorney coming to the prosecutor and saying, ‘Please hold off on the grand jury for awhile. My client is very upset, she’s in a lot of turmoil, and she just isn’t ready for this at this point,” Clark said. “If he tells you that, you’re going to surmise that they’re trying to work out some kind of civil agreement between the victim and the defendant. But that agreement would not, in any way, be binding on the prosecutor. He could still proceed with his case if he feels strongly about it.”
The third possibility cited by Clark was “witness availability.”
“You sometimes may delay the proceeding because an important witness or two are not immediately available to you,” the retired DA said.
Clark said he was basing his comments on his experience in more than 33 years as a prosecutor and 12 as DA, adding that he really doesn’t know what is happening in the Kane case.
“I, too, am watching very closely to see what the next chapter brings,” Clark said.
Others in the Buffalo Niagara legal community have pointed out that civil settlements are not uncommon in criminal matters and sometimes occur before a criminal case ever has a chance to take place.
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