Chicago Blackhawks Jersey

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cam Cole: NHL tainted as Kane case grows even uglier

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First of all, you can’t blame the fans, most of them Chicago Blackhawks Jerseys fans, who have bombarded social media with often obscene comments amounting to “lay off Patrick Kane.”

Even those cretins who were high-fiving Wednesday when it was revealed that the evidence bag that had once contained the rape kit in the case against the Hawks’ star winger had been delivered anonymously Tuesday afternoon to the home of his accuser’s mother.

As appalling as that revelation may be — hinting at misconduct or incompetence by either the Hamburg, N.Y., police or the District Attorney’s office, or bribery, or just some well-meaning or malicious person intentionally corrupting the evidentiary chain of custody — no doubt the true believers see it as manna from the hockey gods.

We know that fans, at a certain level of blind devotion, are not rational people, that they will forgive their idols any transgression — performance-enhancing drugs, domestic violence, even murder — because the worst of them consider moral depravity a fair exchange for championships.

That, or they just won’t believe their heroes could possibly be guilty, so they voluntarily suspend their critical faculties, if they ever had any.

But the Chicago Blackhawks are supposed to be better than that. The National Hockey League is supposed to be better than that.

Sure, when it comes right down it, we often suspect they have no higher purpose than to sell tickets and hype TV ratings, but the illusion of caring, responsible citizens is important to the image they are peddling. So at some point, you might suppose, someone in the public relations end of either operation might say: “Uh, boss, don’t you think this is making us look a little … callous? I mean, what about the victim, just supposing the accuser isn’t lying?”

But that conversation, if it ever took place, has had no effect. The Hawks push on with Patrick Kane, accused rapist, in training camp, while the fans cheer him lustily. The NHL puts out a blanket, “Well, he hasn’t been charged with anything, so …” and passes the buck.

And maybe, when all is said and done, they will have been right. 

Everyone is entitled to due process, and Kane has not been charged, though he’s been under investigation for what seems an unconscionable seven weeks, ever since the accuser came forward.

The league didn’t wait for a conviction before suspending L.A. defenceman Slava Voynov in October 2014, but he’d been charged with beating up his wife. Kane has not reached, now may never reach, the formally charged stage, but a whole different threshold has been crossed, one that’s possibly never been seen before in a rape allegation against an athlete.

Evidence tampering, if that’s what this is, didn’t occur in a vacuum. Either someone in that chain of custody, motivated by money or misguided loyalty, committed a crime or, to put the very best possible spin on it, a fan consciously contaminated evidence either to spare Kane/Blackhawks winter classic Jersey the consequences, in case the DNA was damning enough to get a conviction, or to ensure that the lack of compelling DNA evidence against him doesn’t get him off without going to court.

The other possibility, as a noted defence attorney who is not involved in the Kane case told the Associated Press, is that the bag simply could have been carelessly discarded if the evidence it contained was placed in a new bag, which would not affect the evidence itself.

Whether the ripped-open bag was sent by a “good Samaritan,” as the accused’s lawyer suggests, to warn the family of the powerful forces working against her, or by someone in the evidence chain as a form of intimidation, may emerge eventually.

Probably not unless a law enforcement agency well above the Hamburg/Erie County level gets involved, though. Too many butts being covered in those offices.

Meanwhile, and thankfully, any suggestion that the two parties — accused and accuser — might be working towards a financial settlement is now seen as false, and insulting to the accuser.

Her lawyer, Thomas Eoannou, whose news conference Wednesday in Buffalo revealed the evidence tampering, sounded most outraged when he spoke about the various media reports whose “leaked” information contributed to the shaming of the victim.

“People in the media have been discussing people’s semen in her undergarments,” Eoannou said. “In a rape case, the victim gets attacked … In this case, it has been absolutely devastating to my client. This is supposed to be a secret investigation. This is a classic example why victims don’t come forward in rape cases.”

It is, any way you slice it, an ugly, ugly business, underlined by the response of Kane’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, who said “the only one who might have an incentive to have the evidence questioned would be someone who is not pleased with the results. We are pleased with the results.”

Cambria has said the results of the rape kit already show there is no Kane DNA below the accuser’s waist. If the evidence is disallowed, we may never know.

That said, many rape cases go to trial without DNA evidence. But the issue of consent then becomes the primary test, and it often is the victim who is put on trial.

As for Kane, we go back to his double negative the day the Blackhawks Hoodie trotted him out at the start of training camp: “I am confident once all the facts come to light I will be absolved of having done nothing wrong,” he said.

He probably didn’t mean it the way it came out.

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