One of New Jersey’s top politicians is calling for an official review on the legal handling of the Ray Rice assault case.
Senate President Steve Sweeney wants Acting Attorney General John Hoffman to review the decision by the Atlantic County prosecutor who declined to pursue the case against Ray Rice over his alleged assault on his then-fiancee in the now-closed Revel Casino in Atlantic City in February.
On Monday, TMZ Sports released a grainy video that appeared to show the former Baltimore Ravens player assaulting Janay Palmer inside an elevator at the Revel.
Months ago, another TMZ video had shown Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer, now his wife, from the elevator. A longer video, which includes audio, was shown to the Associated Press Monday night.
“This video and the violence it shows is extremely disturbing,” Sweeney said in a released statement. “It is a vivid reminder that domestic violence is a serious problem that can’t be ignored and shouldn’t be treated lightly.”
Prior to the release of the video of the apparent attack, Rice was charged with felony aggravated assault. In May, however, he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that let him avoid jail time and could allow the charge to be purged from his record.
“I am asking Acting Attorney General John Hoffman to review the decision-making process that allowed for Pre-Trial Intervention and to look at the law itself to see if it should be re-written or revised,” Sweeney said. “This should include a review of who qualifies for PTI and when it is allowed.”
Pre-trial intervention coordinators said they never viewed any of the videos of the assault. NBC10 reached out to Jim McClain, the prosecutor who signed off on Rice’s entry into pre-trial intervention, to ask if he had seen the assault video and why it was not shared with the coordinators. We were told, however, that he was not available.
A criminal division manager who oversees pre-trial intervention said McClain and the judge in Rice’s case, Michael Donio, had to approve entry to the rehabilitative track for Rice. PTI officials say they also consult with victims and that Palmer agreed to Rice’s PTI as well.
“I will tell you the PTI program has been a pretty effective one in general in allowing folks who want a second chance to earn that,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “It’s not given to them. They have to earn it.”
While Christie says emotions are too high and the topic too premature at the moment to consider changing the law, other lawmakers have called for a change in light of the Ray Rice case.
Sweeney, meanwhile, says his push for an official review centers around his desire to protect victims of domestic violence.
“As Senate President, I have a responsibility to see that the law is used to protect women from abuse, and as a husband and father, I have a moral obligation to do what I can to prevent these acts of violence from being repeated,” Sweeney said. “Anything we can learn from this incident and the way it was handled by law enforcement that can be used to better counter domestic violence should be done.”
NBC10's Cydney Long contributed to this report.