After completing a pretrial intervention program, the domestic violence charge against Ray Rice was dropped Thursday. A New Jersey judge dismissed Rice's felony assault charge for punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator. The incident, which was captured on video and widely circulated, spurred conversations that will hopefully have a lasting effect on the NFL's culture.
Rice had to attend anger-management counseling and check in with a probation officer for a year as part of the program, which also let him avoid trial for his third-degree aggravated assault charge. After the program was completed, Judge Michael Donio signed the dismissal.
According to records obtained by the Associated Press, only 70 of over 15,000 domestic violence cases were granted a pretrial program option from 2010-2013 in New Jersey's Superior Court. State guidelines say that those who commit violent crimes should "generally be rejected" from the program. Hmm.
Rice was reinstated to the NFL last December after winning an appeal of his indefinite suspension by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Although he is eligible to do so, Rice has not signed with a team.
It's been over a year since Rice struck Palmer, whom he married after his grand jury indictment, in the elevator. The horrifying video of the incident brought the conversation of domestic violence to the forefront in NFL and in professional sports as a whole. Certainly, we're seeing the beginning of a larger shift in attitude.
Rice was only suspended for two games when news of the incident first broke. If there were initial rumblings of malcontent with Rice's punishment, they turned to an uproar after TMZ leaked the surveillance footage of Rice punching Palmer and dragging her limp body out of the elevator with no visible emotion. That finally prompted Goodell to crack down on Rice. It was suddenly impossible for the NFL — or anyone else, for that matter — just how horrible Rice's actions were.
It's unfortunate that it took such a well-documented incident for the NFL to finally pay attention to domestic violence, but it seems as if they are. There was an anti-domestic violence PSA during the Super Bowl. For the time being, it's doubtful that any team will touch Rice with a 10-foot pole.
Rice almost certainly received special treatment when he was granted a pretrial intervention. But hopefully his punishment had permanent effects on the player, and, fingers crossed, the sports world as a whole.
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