The Patrick Kane investigation just got messier

Shawn McKenzie reports from Buffalo where a bombshell has been dropped in the sexual assault investigation of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

This sure got messy, or messier, in a hurry.

What was an allegation is now more like a scandal. That said, the basic facts remain.

Only Patrick Kane and his accuser actually know what happened that night. A few others have seen the physical evidence and the specific accounts of both parties.

The public? Other than some leaks, which may or may not be reliable, we really don’t know a damn thing, other than the fact several possible witnesses have been interviewed, possibly including an off-duty Buffalo police lieutenant who was reportedly working for Kane that night.

None of that evidence is public yet. Now, this isn’t what the string-him-up, give-due-process-later crowd wants to hear.

But nothing has changed in this case, other than the sensational claims of the woman’s attorney that a bag containing evidence was deposited on the doorstep of the woman’s mother, which caused the attorney to claim evidence had been tampered with, only to be followed by assertions from the police that they have all the evidence, intact and resting with the proper authorities.

Somebody’s messing with somebody here.

But again, nothing really has changed. A woman may have been raped, and if it can be proven in court, she deserves justice and the perpetrator deserves to go to jail for a long, long time.

Patrick Kane, an NHL player, is under investigation but he denies any wrongdoing. The police haven’t charged him. A grand jury hasn’t yet indicted him. Despite all those who wish to jump to conclusions, very little evidence is actually known by the public.

A million different scenarios are possible.

So despite a day of histrionics, drama and bizarre accusations, we’re really at exactly the same place. Waiting for a charge against Kane, if one is forthcoming.

There are many who want to believe Kane is guilty — none have seen any actual evidence, of course — and are outraged he hasn’t been suspended by the NHL and/or the Chicago Blackhawks. One wonders where similar outrage is over the fact Buffalo forward Ryan O’Reilly has actually been charged with a serious DUI charge, but is in the Sabres camp, proceeding with his career.

It’s completely understandable that many people believe violence against women isn’t treated seriously enough in general by North American society, and specifically by professional sports, because it’s true. It isn’t. And proceeding with a rape allegation must be the most difficult, courageous course of action for any woman, and exponentially more difficult against a rich, famous person, such as a pro athlete.

Those things are all true.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Kane hasn’t been charged, and may never be charged, and may not have done anything wrong here.

We just don’t know yet.

Perhaps it would be wise of Kane to take a leave of absence to deal with this. You could make that argument. But he doesn’t want to, and that’s his choice. If he’s guilty, we can all hope he is charged and convicted and dealt with accordingly by the law.

But if he chooses to continue to work, that’s his choice, at least for now.

Now, what Wednesday was all about is anyone’s guess. The woman’s lawyer decided to hold a media conference, alleging wrongdoing and demanding an external investigation. The response of the police that they are in possession of all the evidence, and that the chain of evidence is “unassailable,” made that claim look strange and clearly, more is yet to come on this front.

So forward we go, with the case more tawdry now, but with nothing more proven.

The leaks, if they are accurate, are appalling, and if the police aren’t protecting the evidence here, there should be an investigation. Anybody who knows the inner workings of pro sports knows police often come to the relief of athletes who find themselves in dicey situations, but tampering with evidence would be another matter entirely.

Some would argue Wednesday’s events mean justice will be impossible in this case. Not true. The woman’s allegations could be proven in court, and there could be a charge and a conviction. She deserves the full protection of the law if she has been victimized.

Kane could be innocent and exonerated, which is also justice. There could also be a settlement, of course, which would likely leave us all in the dark forever as to exactly what happened that night.

Folks, we’re all just going to have to be patient and let the legal process work, as frustrating as that may seem to those who believe a crime has been committed.

Nothing has changed. Hopefully, something will soon. A man stands accused, and a woman has made serious allegations she was sexually assaulted.

Both have rights. The system needs to work as quickly as possible. The public wants answers.

We all do.

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