Patrick Kane, his team and his fans got the news they were hoping for on Thursday. After a lengthy investigation, law enforcement authorities in Western New York declined to press charges pursuant to a rape complaint that was filed in August against the Chicago Blackhawks star.
It’s the best possible result for so many people, one that, after weeks of uncertainty, cleans the slate for the NHL, one of its marquee franchises and one of the game’s superstars.
And yet it feels like we’ve been left with a layer of grime that we’ll never quite scrub away, doesn't it?
Maybe it’s because the decision not to press charges isn’t a full exoneration of Kane, at least in the way that a not guilty finding at trial would be. We’ll never know exactly what happened that night at his home. All we can say with any certainty is that, after three months of diligent work by local authorities, the information uncovered wasn’t sufficient to merit presentation to a grand jury. Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita made that very clear.
“The totality of the credible evidence—the proof—does not sufficiently substantiate the complainant’s allegation that she was raped by Patrick Kane,” Sedita wrote, “and this so-called ‘case’ is rife with reasonable doubt.”
And so that's that: the end of a very ugly episode that shone the worst possible light on our game. Kane is clear of criminal charges. Neither party is likely to file civil suit. And while the NHL says it will “review the information that is now available to us,” the league is not expected to impose any discipline.
But even as this wraps up, it’s hardly a time for anyone to take a victory lap. There’s nothing feel-good about this. And there are certainly no winners here.
Kane no longer faces the threat of incarceration, but he’ll carry the stigma of the accusation for the rest of his life. That’s a cruel burden that diminishes his character and it could cost him a fortune in lost endorsements, especially in light of his reputation as a hard-partying bar hopper who unfortunately told the crowd at the team’s Stanley Cup celebration last June, “I know you said I've been growing up, but watch out for me the next week.”
The woman who accused him? She either didn’t get the justice she deserved or she is a truly sorry human whose plot to indict Kane suggests a need for real help. That also applies to her mother, whose alleged role in a hoax involving a rape test kit bag suggests a galling lack of character that led to the abrupt resignation of her daughter’s attorney and caused the DA to look into possible criminal intent.
The Blackhawks? Although their investment of faith in Kane paid off, their handling of the matter, especially at their appallingly tone deaf pre-camp press conference in South Bend, Ind., left their golden reputation tarnished.
But the biggest losers here are the future victims of sexual assault, who’ll find their own road to justice complicated by a high-profile case that casts doubt on rape accusations.
If anything good comes of this, hopefully it will be a more enlightened understanding of what they’ll go through as they fight to have their voices heard and how easily a famous athlete can put his future at risk.