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Did prosecutors go soft in Ray Rice domestic violence case?

Domestic violence is one of those difficult legal issues. When such actions come to light, reaction at a societal level is generally one of outrage. That is understandable. But in the legal context there are often a lot more factors influencing how such matters are resolved.

That doesn’t always settle well in the collective social conscience. As an example, take the case of Ray Rice.

Rice is the former Baltimore Ravens football star who was caught on video at a New Jersey hotel last February, punching his then-fiancee, now-wife, and apparently knocking her unconscious.

That video was only released a couple of a days ago. In the wake of that, the Ravens cut Rice from the team and the National Football League suspended him indefinitely. The league had earlier suspended him for two games.

Those actions were seen as insufficient in many circles, but what seems to have triggered even more anger is the notion that perhaps New Jersey prosecutors went soft on Rice when it came to resolving the criminal charges.

Both Rice and his wife were initially charged with misdemeanor assault in the case. Later, Rice faced indictment on a more serious charge of third-degree aggravated assault — conviction of which might have resulted in his going to prison for up to five years.

What has sparked public outcry is that in May, prosecutors allowed Rice to enter a program requiring he get anger management training. According to a USA Today report, if he completes it and has no run-ins with authorities for a year, he could see the charges dropped leaving him record-free.

Some suggest that Rice’s celebrity status won him special treatment, but legal observers say that’s not the case. A spokesman for the prosecutor says what happened in the Rice case is what typically happens in Atlantic County for any first-time domestic violence offender.

And several attorneys cited by Bloomberg back up that position. One legal observer noted that the victim, Rice’s wife, didn’t want him prosecuted. And another said PTI is commonly granted, even in cases where the assault was more violent than what was seen in the video.

Everyone is entitled to have an opinion about whether the punishment was adequate, but we all have an obligation to allow the final determination of such things to be made by the courts.

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