BUFFALO, N.Y. — The lawyer for a woman accusing Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane of sexual assault abruptly quit the case Thursday night, saying he’s no longer comfortable representing the woman because of how her mother reported finding an evidence bag they believed once held the woman’s rape kit.
Thomas Eoannou told reporters he believes there were, what he called, "fabrications" in the story of how the bag was found. And he added that he’s no longer sure if the bag ever contained evidence from the investigation.
"I can only say that I don’t know what’s true and what’s not true," Eoannou said during a hastily called news conference at his downtown Buffalo law office. "I received the story line from the mother. And it’s my position that I’m not comfortable with that version of the events."
Despite his concerns, Eoannou said he’s still confident in the woman’s allegations against Kane.
"I don’t know how that reflects, and I don’t think it does, on the night in question," Eoannou said.
The woman’s mother declined an interview request, and instead referred to a statement the family released to the media.
"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 Eoannou has withdrawn from his role providing advice and counsel in the criminal investigation of Patrick Kane, we have every intention of pursuing this case to a just conclusion," the statement said. "It must be emphasized that there exists no evidence or allegation that the accuser herself had any knowledge of the evidence bag until it was brought to Mr. Eoannou’s office."
The AP doesn’t identify people who may have been sexually assaulted unless they have come forward and voluntarily identified themselves.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, reached at home after the news conference, declined comment but said he would address the issue Friday at a previously scheduled news conference.
The reversal comes after police said Wednesday that the rape kit and its packaging were handled properly, and after Eoannou held a press conference to announce the evidence bag was found by the women’s mother at the front door of her home.
Kane has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her 20s at his waterfront mansion outside of Buffalo on Aug. 2. He has not been charged.
Last week, Kane said he did nothing wrong and expected to be absolved.
Eoannou’s reversal and decision to withdraw as counsel is the latest twist in a case that has been a source of intense speculation and rumour since Hamburg police first announced they had launched an investigation against Kane.
On Wednesday, Eoannou held a news conference in the same law office boardroom where he displayed the evidence bag which he had confirmed to be authentic. He said the paper bag was labeled with personal identifying information for the woman, details on where the rape kit was used and the initials of the nurses who administered the kit.
He began having reservations of the mother’s version of events after continuing his own investigation into how the bag was found, and after meeting with prosecutors on Thursday.
Eoannou wouldn’t reveal what specific concerns he had with the mother’s story. He would only say, "I’m not comfortable with that version of events."
Kane’s attorney, Paul Cambria, held his own news conference later Thursday night by reiterating he believes that Kane is being victimized.
"People keep using the word victim, victim, and in my opinion, you don’t know who the victim is until all the facts are in," Cambria said.
"This happening today is bizarre," Cambria said, noting that officials had confirmed all the evidence had been accounted for. "Today, within 24 hours of these kind of astronomical claims yesterday, we now find out that they’re false."
Kane and the NHL have been subject to criticism for allowing the player to report to training camp and play in the preseason despite the investigation.
On Wednesday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said "nothing’s changed," regarding Kane’s status with the team. He shrugged off the notion that the latest news involving Kane contributes to a distraction.
"We don’t change our routine at all," Quenneville told reporters outside his team’s dressing room in Detroit. "It’s business as usual, going into the game."
The Blackhawks, who have won three Stanley Cups in six years, open the regular season Oct. 7 at home against the New York Rangers.