By Justin Fenton The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked his fiancee unconscious in an altercation at an Atlantic City casino during the weekend, according to a complaint filed by police, who said Wednesday that they have referred the case to county prosecutors for review.
The revelation came as a video clip showing the aftermath of the incident was posted online. The 50-second video, obtained by the website TMZ, shows Rice lifting fiancee Janay Palmer by her arms out of an elevator in the Revel Casino and laying her on the ground. She appears limp as he pulls her legs away from the elevator’s doors and props her up.
Contacted about the allegations in the summons, Rice’s Philadelphia-based attorney, Michael Diamondstein, declined to comment. Earlier in the day, he said the online video clip was authentic but incomplete.
“The video that has been put up by TMZ shows the very end of what transpired between Ray and his fiancee,” said Diamondstein, who said he and Rice would “not try this case in the media.”
“We are confident that by the time all of the facts are in the open, the public will have a complete and true picture of what actually transpired, and we just ask that the public remember what a high-character, good person Ray is, and that they reserve judgment until all the facts are out.”
An attorney for Palmer could not be reached.
A Ravens spokesman said: “We have seen the video, this is a serious matter and we are currently gathering more information.” Owner Steve Bisciotti declined to comment.
Rice, 27, has been one of the Ravens’ top players for years, with his success burnished by high-profile anti-bullying efforts and sponsorships. This week’s legal trouble comes on the heels of his worst season as a starter.
Fallout from the incident continued Wednesday, as Rice pulled out of a charity fundraiser scheduled for Friday in Baltimore. A source told The Baltimore Sun that Rice’s arrest would be reviewed by the NFL under its personal-conduct policy.
Atlantic City police also said they had asked the county prosecutor’s office to review the case and “ensure appropriate charges are considered.”
Rice and Palmer were arrested and charged Saturday morning with simple assault, then released with a summons to appear in municipal court. The charge, punishable by up to six months in jail, requires prosecutors to show that a suspect attempted to cause or caused bodily injury. It is considered a “disorderly persons offense” in New Jersey.
The charges against Rice and Palmer are less severe than the New Jersey crime of aggravated assault, which involves the use of a weapon or an attempt to cause “serious” bodily injury.
Police said the couple refused medical attention and did not report any injuries to police. On Sunday, Rice’s attorneys called the incident a “very minor physical altercation.”
A copy of the summons issued to Rice says he “committed assault by attempting to cause bodily injury” to the 26-year-old Palmer, “specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino.”
The summons for Palmer says she struck Rice with her hand.
Rice, who starred at Rutgers University in New Jersey, visited the Revel Casino on Atlantic City’s boardwalk Friday night with a group that included Palmer. They attended a burlesque show, where a club manager reported that they appeared to be in good spirits.
Casino security called police at about 2:50 a.m. Saturday, and officers watched surveillance video of an altercation between the pair in which they struck each other with their hands, police have said.
A player doesn’t have to be convicted of a crime to be punished under the NFL policy. The NFL can choose to levy discipline if the player pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser offense or disposes of a case through a diversionary program, deferred adjudication, a conditional dismissal or probation.
Rice has no history of off-field issues, though first-time offenders have been suspended in the past.
NFL discipline can include suspensions, fines, banishment from the league, a probationary period in which conditions have to be satisfied before reinstatement, or a formal reprimand.
Dan Hill, a Washington-based crisis communications expert, said while there is public pressure for Rice to be contrite and offer an explanation or apology, his lawyers likely want to restrict comment as they look out for his best interests in the pending criminal case.
“When you show contrition, you’re admitting that you did wrong, which makes (the lawyer’s) job a lot harder,” said Hill, president of Ervin Hill Strategy.
The case has generated considerable discussion online and on talk radio.
Sandi Timmins, executive director of House of Ruth Maryland, said she could not comment directly on the Rice case because “we still don’t know all the facts.” But when public figures are associated with allegations of partner abuse, her organization tries to bring perspective to the ensuing dialogue.
“What we see in social media right now is the rather typical view that what happens between people in a relationship is private, and it’s not our place to get involved,” Timmins said. “That’s an issue we feel very strongly about. And we feel it’s important to say that violence of any type in a partner relationship is not acceptable.”
She said House of Ruth Maryland responded to the interest in the Rice case by posting discussion questions on its Facebook page, hoping to shape the public conversation.
Timmins noted that one woman in four is involved in an abusive relationship at some point, a prevalence that surprises many people. In that context, she said, it’s not surprising that public figures are sometimes involved.
“The issue is so prevalent that we need to talk about it and never hide it or excuse it,” she said.
Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, said she hoped that this could be a teaching moment for all athletes, professional sports teams and their fans, regardless of the outcome.
“This is an opportunity for the athletic world to look at the situation and see that this is not an isolated situation,” she said. “And I hope that those in organized sports look at it as something they need to address.”
Rice bowed out of a charity event scheduled for Friday with the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The nonprofit had been advertising Rice’s appearance at the kickoff party for its annual March of Animals event, but said he would be replaced by Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
An MDSPCA spokeswoman said it was a mutual decision between the organization and Rice, because they didn’t want to take the focus off the animals and the cause.