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Civil suit still a possibility in Patrick Kane case

If no criminal charges are filed against Patrick Kane following a district attorney’s investigation of the rape allegation made against him, that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the drama.

Is a civil assault case against the Blackhawks star possible?

“Absolutely,” said Florina Altshiler, a Buffalo attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor.

And, given that Kane’s accuser has retained a personal injury attorney in Roland M. Cercone, that is seemingly even more likely.

Cercone, who wasn’t able to be reached by The News on Saturday, also represented Christopher J. Kozak, the man who says he was beaten by Buffalo Police Officer Robert E. Eloff and others on St. Patrick’s Day 2014 outside of a West Chippewa Street bar. Eloff was connected to an alleged cover-up in an attack at Molly’s Pub two months later that left William Sager Jr. dead.

Altshiler noted that just because that a criminal prosecution isn’t pursued, that doesn’t mean a civil case couldn’t prevail.

“That’s not a hindrance to bringing the case forward,” she said.

To win at a civil trial, the plaintiff must only prove a “preponderance of evidence” shows the defendant is liable for the act, rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that exists in criminal trials.

“It’s a much lower burden of proof,” she said.

Plaintiffs also prevail with only a majority of the six-member jury voting in their favor, instead of a unanimous panel that’s required in criminal cases.

And, Altshiler said, there is equal discovery rules between both parties.

A civil action aside, other questions also remain to be answered in Kane’s ordeal:

Will the National Hockey League discipline one of its greatest on-ice stars?

Could Kane’s reputation be irreparably damaged in his hometown and the hockey community as the result of the accusations?

Might he lose more endorsements?

In short: Maybe. Probably. And, he already has.

As of this weekend, it remained unclear what plans the NHL has for Kane.

“At this point, it is premature” to comment on the Kane investigation, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The News on Saturday.

An NHL source said that, at a minimum, the league will want to meet with Kane once the criminal investigation is completed.

The Blackhawks did not respond to a request for comment.

The controversy swirling around Kane hasn’t been without some repercussions, however:

• Before the start of the 2015-16 hockey season, Kane was dropped from the cover of the new NHL 16 video game, where he was to be featured with Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews.

• Kane was not invited by the league to participate in its preseason media tour or be featured in promotion video of its top players.

• His junior team, the London Knights, dropped the use of his name from an honorary position at its training camp, according to local media reports.

And, while the Blackhawks kept plans for a January “Bobblehead Night” honoring Kane, the hockey star already has been met with derision in other hockey circles during the young hockey season, including the viral #notmyNHL online campaign that drew awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence at the Blackhawks’ opening night banner-raising ceremony and at an Oct. 14 game in Philadelphia where Flyers fans serenaded Kane with chants of “she said no.”

But, if the controversy is bothering Kane, he hasn’t shown it on the ice.

He’s third in league scoring with 6 goals and 14 points in 11 games, according to NHL.com.

Kane and the Blackhawks are scheduled to make their lone regular season appearance at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center for an afternoon game on Dec. 19.

News staff reporters Tim Graham, Mike Harrington, Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel contributed to this report. email: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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