As expected, Buffalo Sabres star winger Evander Kane pleaded not guilty Monday morning in Buffalo City Court at his arraignment on a misdemeanor charge and five non-criminal charges in connection with a June 24 incident at a downtown bar.
"He certainly denies strenuously any wrongdoing," defense attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr. said outside the courthouse after Kane's court appearance.
— Aaron Besecker (@AaronBesecker) August 1, 2016
Kane did not speak during the brief court appearance before City Court Judge Barbara R. Johnson-Lee. His attorney entered the plea for him.
The case is due back in court on Sept. 9. Kane, who was previously released, remained free on his own recognizance.
Buffalo police charged Kane with misdemeanor criminal trespass, non-criminal disorderly conduct and four counts of non-criminal harassment after complaints by three women and a bouncer at Bottoms Up on West Chippewa Street.
Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. told reporters after the arraignment that Kane will be treated like any other person facing charges.
"We'll treat Mr. Kane like we would any of the other dozens of cases that were arraigned this morning before Judge Johnson-Lee and we will go forward in the process," Flaherty said.
Details of the complaints - found in the statements made to investigators - allege Kane grabbed women by the neck, pulled their hair and demanded they go home with him.
“He came up to me like he always does,” one woman said in a sworn deposition. “He said, ‘You’re coming to my house with me and you’re going to like it.’ ... He grabbed my neck with both hands and pulled me close. It was like I couldn’t breathe. It hurt. When I told him no, he went off. That’s how he treats women. Aggressive and disrespectful.”
The story from a second woman was similar. “He said to me, ‘Are you ready to leave?’ I said no,” she told police. “He grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the crowd. I was scared and wanted to get away.”
A third woman said she was talking with friends near the bar when Kane “comes up and pulls my hair hard. ... He pulled it so hard he pulled my whole head. It hurt a lot.”
A bouncer at Bottoms Up said he told Kane that he “‘got a text message with complaints about you grabbing girls inappropriately.’ I told him to leave. He pushed me against the register and he was grabbed by me and another security guard. We took him out from behind the bar. He resisted us all the way to the middle of the dance floor. He broke free ... and pushed me again. ... Someone else grabbed Kane and walked him out the back.”
The bouncer also told police he and other employees watched video surveillance from the bar and he “saw Evander Kane grab a brunette by the throat on the dance floor.”
"Well, the bouncer needs to look at the video again," Cambria said Monday morning. "The allegations that I read in the paper and so on are extremely exaggerated. I've seen the video - the video doesn't back these things up."
"But that's what the courtroom is for," Cambria added.
The defense attorney stressed that at this point, the charges are merely accusations against his client.
"People can accuse other people of a lot of things for a lot of different motives. We've seen that. We saw that with other prominent sports figures dating way back to the Buffalo Bills, which we were involved in," he said. "And people make accusations about other people and courtrooms are where you find out what's true and what's fiction."
When asked what possible motivations those who talked to police might have, Cambria said he did not want to speculate. "Everybody knows what possible motivations there are for people to say things, especially if they're not accurate," he said. "There's lots of different motives out there and I'm not going to pinpoint anything before we get to the courtroom."
Cambria also was asked why Kane was handcuffed when he turned himself in on July 22.
"Good question. And I still don't understand that," the defense attorney said.
Police represented to him that since Kane would be issued an appearance ticket and he would be walking in voluntarily, there would be no reason to handcuff him, Cambria said. Cambria also said he was not trying to give the police or district attorney's office a black eye on this particular issue, adding he doesn't believe "people in authority" in either office were responsible for what played out.
"Some police officer decided that he was going to drive up with his police car and put handcuffs on him. I don't know what that was all about. But it happened. It's a small, small spec in this whole case, but it was not necessary, let's put it that way," he said.
In a news conference after the court appearance, Flaherty said he stands by the charges filed against the hockey star.
"It's our position that the evidence does support the charges," Flaherty said.
— Aaron Besecker (@AaronBesecker) August 1, 2016
The case is being handled for the prosecution by Lynette Reda, chief of the domestic violence bureau of the DA's office.
Sources told The Buffalo News that Kane was acting as a celebrity bartender at the bar when the alleged incidents occurred.
An attorney for the bar has previously said that Kane was not trespassing on the night in question.
"The owners and the managers say that he's not a trespasser," Cambria said Monday. "That will obviously be an important piece of testimony as this case goes forward."
Flaherty was asked about one of the women's comments that indicated she had previous interactions with Kane.
"I think you realize that if you live in Buffalo, you pretty much run into the same people over and over again," the acting district attorney said. "And I think that's the feeling I get is that they patronize the same place. And so they've seen each other there, just from my reading of the paperwork."
The maximum sentence for a conviction on a violation is 15 days in jail, while the maximum for a conviction on a class B misdemeanor is 90 days in jail, Flaherty said, speaking generally about these types of charges.
"The reality is that for first-time offenders, anybody, whether you are a hockey player or just an ordinary guy convicted of those offenses, the reality is you usually, rarely go to jail," the acting district attorney said.