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Presumed Guilty by a Jury of Fans: Athlete Sexual Assault Allegations

02-Oct-2015

In early August, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane was accused of raping a young woman he invited home after a night at  a bar. His accuser says that Kane and his friend invited her and her friend back to his home. The woman says she walked alone into a room, and Kane followed her, overpowering her and raping her. She and her friend left shortly thereafter.

Reports say the woman called her mother to report the incident, went to her mother's house to change clothes, and then went to a hospital for a rape kit.

The rape kit allegedly shows that Kane's DNA was not found in the woman's underwear or near her genitals. It does, however, apparently indicate that the hockey star's DNA was under her fingernails, and that she had a bite mark on her shoulder and a scratch on her leg.

However, there has now been suggestion that the rape kit was tampered with, and the accuser's attorney quit after describing "an elaborate hoax" involving the accuser's mother regarding the allegedly tampered rape kit. Prosecutors and the accuser's mother paint the situation involving the "rape kit" as a misunderstanding.

(On a side note, it is interesting how a rape kit in a high-profile case is tested so quickly in light of the tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of untested rape kits in the nation's backlog.) 

Kane's attorney denies any wrongdoing, and the NHL player  has not been charged.

But despite the fact that the player has not been charged with a crime, many NHL fans are in an uproar that the player has not been suspended, that he is involved in training camps, and that the Blackhawks even plan a "Patrick Kane Bobblehead Night." Many are calling on the NHL to strengthen its domestic violence and sexual assault policies as the NFL did in the post-Ray Rice era.

Of course, if the player is guilty of raping the woman, then such righteous indignation is justified. But when it comes to sexual assault allegations, we often fail to remember that our nation's justice system is founded on the belief that a person is to be considered innocent unless proven guilty.

Sexual assault allegations are possibly the most serious criminal allegations a person can face. In Kane's case, whether he is ultimately charged and convicted, tried and acquitted, not charged and settles with the accuser, or simply not charged at all, his reputation is tainted. No matter what happens, there will be a significant fan base serving as sideline jurors who will be convinced of his guilt.   



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