CAMDEN, N.J. — The decision to let former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice into a pretrial intervention program after he was accused of assaulting his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino should be reviewed, the state Senate’s president said Tuesday.
Democrat Steve Sweeney said the state attorney general’s office should evaluate the decision by Atlantic County prosecutors last fall to allow Rice to avoid prosecution and the criteria for the program. He joined with another state lawmaker who had already called for a review.
On Monday, a video was released showing Rice punching Janay Palmer, whom he has since married. Rice had been suspended by the NFL for two games, but after the video surfaced the Ravens cut him and the league suspended him indefinitely. That set off a new round of questions about how the case was handled.
Rice and Palmer were charged with assault after the Feb. 15 incident at Revel Casino Hotel. Charges against Palmer, who was knocked unconscious, were later dropped. Palmer apologized for her role in the incident, and Rice said his actions were inexcusable.
In May, Rice was accepted into the pretrial intervention program, which lets defendants avoid criminal records if they follow certain conditions. He agreed to anger management counseling and paid $125 in fines.
The state guidelines for the intervention program say any defendant charged with a crime is eligible but the nature of the offense is a factor in deciding eligibility. It notes that those charged with deliberately committing violence or threatening to do so “should generally be rejected.”
People accused of such offenses are supposed to be presented for the program with a joint application with the prosecutor’s office, as Rice was. They also are to be given the chance to demonstrate to a court official or prosecutor their “amenability to the rehabilitative process.”
“Crimes of violence are generally crimes that we shy away from,” Kathy Boyle, who administers the program in Atlantic County, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
She said her staff did not have access to the video while reviewing the case.
The policy also says that those accused of being part of organized crime, a breach of the public trust or first- or second-degree crimes should not generally be admitted. Rice was indicted on lower-level third-degree charges, which are punishable in New Jersey with up to five years in prison upon conviction.
The Atlantic County prosecutor’s office declined to comment Tuesday but previously issued a statement standing behind its handling of the case.
“Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances,” office spokesman Jay McKeen said. “The decision was correct.”
On Monday, Democratic Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, vice chairwoman of the committee on women and children, also questioned Rice getting pretrial intervention. Mosquera and Sweeney said the state needs to consider reviewing who is eligible for the program.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he would not comment on decisions made by prosecutors while a case is ongoing. He also said the pretrial intervention program is a good one and cautioned against calling for major changes because of one case.