Some alleged misbehavior as a “celebrity bartender” in a downtown night spot has landed Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane in trouble with the Buffalo police.
After a nearly monthlong investigation into his conduct, detectives on Friday charged Kane, 24, with misdemeanor criminal trespass, non-criminal disorderly conduct and four counts of non-criminal harassment.
Police said the charges are all related to Kane’s behavior in the Bottoms Up nightclub on West Chippewa Street early on the morning of June 24. Kane is alleged to have had unwanted physical contact with three women and also is alleged to have tried to pick a fight with a bouncer in the club after officials of the establishment asked him to leave.
Police allege that Kane later yanked the hair and grabbed the throat of one of the women, while trying to push her into his car. Witnesses said Kane began acting in an inappropriate manner toward some female patrons while acting as a “celebrity bartender” or “guest bartender” at Bottoms Up, according to two law enforcement officials closely familiar with the case.
“They let him go behind the bar and serve as a bartender. He was a regular there,” said one of the sources. He and a second source said Kane began acting in such an unruly manner that two women complained and a bouncer insisted that he leave.
One female bar patron complained to a staffer that Kane, while tending bar, reached out and “groped” her, according to one of the sources.
An attorney for Bottoms Up told The News that – as far as the owner and general manager are concerned – Kane did not trespass in the bar, and Kane’s attorney, Paul J. Cambria, said that also was his understanding.
But law enforcement officials told The News that bar employees told police that Kane had to be ordered to leave the bar because of his unruly behavior.
Although Kane, 24, voluntarily surrendered to police on Friday, he still proclaims his innocence and plans to fight the charges, Cambria said.
“Without a doubt, he plans to defend himself against these charges,” Cambria said. He added that he does not believe the charges should affect Kane’s future with the hockey team.
A News reporter was watching when Kane met three Buffalo police detectives outside the Central Booking Bureau at Buffalo’s City Court building at 11 a.m. Friday. One of the detectives put handcuffs on Kane before accompanying him into the booking office, where he was formally charged. The handcuffing was normal police procedure, said Joseph A. Gramaglia, Central District police chief.
“I don’t know what their procedures are,” Cambria said. “I don’t run the police department. But they represented to us beforehand that, if Evander voluntarily surrendered, they would not handcuff him.
“I can’t concern myself with that now. We have bigger fish to fry in this case. He will plead not guilty when he appears in court on Aug. 1, and we will go forward from there.”
“Unwanted physical contact” is the underlying reason for the harassment charges against Kane, Gramaglia said. He said four accusers have claimed that Kane grabbed them by either “the neck, the hair, or by the arm.”
The disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing charges stem from Kane’s altercations with a male employee at the bar, police said. Police declined to say whether Kane appeared to be intoxicated at the time.
Friday’s charges marked the third time that Kane has landed in a negative spotlight since the Sabres traded for the talented player in February 2015.
He was previously investigated by Buffalo police after a sexual encounter on Dec. 27 of last year with a young woman Kane met in a different downtown bar.
Police said Kane took the woman to his hotel room and had consensual sex with her. The next morning, the woman woke up with physical injuries, but no recollection of how she was hurt. She went to a local hospital, and hospital officials called police.
After a lengthy investigation, Erie County’s acting district attorney, Michael J. Flaherty Jr., announced on March 11 that no criminal charges would be filed because investigators found no evidence of any crime.
Kane got into trouble with team officials on Feb. 17, after he overslept and missed a Sabres practice.
Kane missed the practice after flying to Toronto to party with National Basketball Association players after their annual All-Star Game. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma temporarily benched Kane, but he was put back in the lineup after apologizing to his teammates.
If Kane’s future with the team is in any jeopardy, Sabres officials are not saying so. The Sabres organization issued a statement saying the team is aware of Friday’s arrest, but declined to comment further. NHL officials said they, too, are monitoring the situation involving Kane.
In his most recent comments on the Kane investigation, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said on July 1 that he planned to have a talk with Kane about his penchant for getting into unpleasant situations.
“We don’t like the fact that this is twice now that he’s been in incidents like this,” Murray told reporters at a news conference. “It’s not good for the organization. It’s not good for him. … He’s going to have to pick and choose his spots when he goes out a lot better than he does, and he’s going to have to behave himself a lot better than he has.”
Bill Lankhof, a longtime sports columnist for the Toronto Sun newspaper, said it is anyone’s guess whether Kane’s latest problems will hurt his standing with the team.
“Let’s face it. In these situations, if a guy is a big enough star, people tend to look the other way, or make excuses,” Lankhof told The News in an email. “If management doesn’t consider them such a big part of a team’s future, it often turns into ‘Hit the road, Jack,’ or this case, Evander.”
Jacob A. Piorkowski, an attorney for Bottoms Up, told The News that the bar’s owner and general manager have told police that, as far as they are concerned, Kane was not trespassing.
“That’s our contention. We provided a sworn statement to police yesterday that he was not trespassing, not ejected,” Piorkowski said. “We understand that someone associated with the bar has signed a complaint stating that he was trespassing. But the general manager, who was the person in charge that night, says he was not trespassing and was not ejected.”
Piorkowski said it was his understanding that Kane was not acting as a celebrity bartender or guest bartender at Bottoms Up on the night in question.
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