Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane can finally focus solely on his NHL career after avoiding criminal charges in a rape investigation, with prosecutors ending a bizarre three-month ordeal that put one of hockey's biggest stars at the center of intense speculation and criticism.
Prosecutors announced Thursday they declined to file charges against Kane because of a lack of credible evidence in a case "rife with reasonable doubt." The accuser signed an affidavit saying she did not want to press charges, prosecutors said.
Roland Cercone, a lawyer for the 21-year-old woman who made the accusation, did not return messages seeking comment from The Associated Press. A person who answered the accuser's mother's cellphone hung up Thursday when contacted by The AP.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said a three-month investigation found that physical and forensic evidence "tend to contradict" the accuser's claim that she was raped on Aug. 2 at Kane's offseason home outside Buffalo.
"The DNA results lend no corroboration whatsoever to the complainant's claim," said Sedita, who decided against presenting the case to a grand jury for possible charges.
"I have repeatedly said that I did nothing wrong," Kane said in a statement issued by the Blackhawks. "I have respected the legal process and I am glad that this matter has now been closed and I will have nothing further to say going forward."
It's not immediately clear whether Kane could face disciplinary action from the National Hockey League. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league wouldn't comment until reviewing the prosecutor's findings.
At 26, Kane is one of the NHL's top young stars and has won three Stanley Cup championships in Chicago over the past six years, including last season.
He had been in trouble before, too, arrested after an altercation with a cab driver in Buffalo in the summer of 2009. Photos of him partying are easily found online.
But the assault case brought by a woman he had met at a nightclub was by far the most serious allegation Kane had faced.
The high-profile investigation led to Kane's removal from the cover of a popular NHL video game and fan chants of "She said no!" and "No means no!" during a couple of early road games.
"We knew all along that Patrick didn't do anything wrong," his agent, Pat Brisson, said in a text to The Associated Press.
Kane, the first pick in the 2007 draft, hasn't shown any signs of distraction on the ice. With a goal and assist in a 6-5 overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday night, Kane's 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 13 games have him ranked third in the NHL's scoring race. Two of his goals have been game-winners, and he's tied for the league lead with four power-play goals.
Sedita's decision to not pursue charges came after signs of trouble with the investigation first appeared in September.
In a strange series of events, the accuser's initial attorney, Tom Eoannou, announced that the woman's mother had found an empty evidence bag in her doorway. The attorney quit the case a short time later, saying he no longer believed the mother's story.
Sedita called the episode — apparently meant to cast doubt on how evidence had been handled — "a bizarre hoax."
It still wasn't easy for Kane to deal with scrutiny he attracted in both Chicago and hometown of Buffalo.
Kane's day to spend hosting the Stanley Cup was Aug. 8, but he called off a public display of the iconic trophy because of the investigation and instead spent the day with family and friends.
He stayed out of sight after the investigation became public, then reported to training camp with the rest of the Blackhawks in September. With the team facing heavy criticism for allowing him to play during the investigation, the star winger was joined by top Blackhawks executives for an awkward news conference where he said he would be absolved of any wrongdoing and brushed aside any questions that touched on the situation.
"The very difficult part of this is when you are basically an international sports star, and as a result, a likely target," Kane's attorney, Paul Cambria, said Thursday. "And you have to go through three months of reading things in the media that you know are not true, and they're hurtful things and accusatory things. That's a very difficult burden to bear."
The Blackhawks were also criticized for allowing Kane to play despite the allegations made against him.
"The Chicago Blackhawks organization has taken this matter very seriously and has tried to navigate a very sensitive situation while continually respecting the legal proceedings," the team said in a statement released Thursday.
Kane resisted any public signs of strain or frustration. When asked about the investigation this season, he has mostly stuck with polite comments that he was simply waiting for the prosecutor's decision.
"After a thorough investigation, we agree with the district attorney. We're not surprised that they did not go forward," Cambria said. "And I agree that the case is rife with doubt."