MAYS LANDING — Ray Rice's attorney called an incident inside a casino elevator that rendered his now-wife unconscious "a momentary lapse of reason" Thursday, just moments after Rice pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and applied for a program that could have him avoid prosecution.
If Rice, 27, is denied entry into the pretrial intervention program, there is a plea offer by the state that would have the Baltimore Ravens running back do no jail time, and require anger management. But Rice’s attorney said he would not plead to the third-degree charnge of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Third-degree charges do not carry a presumption of jail time, especially for those without criminal records.
The former Rutgers University standout is accused of beating his then-fiancee inside an elevator at the Revel Casino Hotel just before 3 a.m., after an apparent night out in Atlantic City. Both he and Janay Palmer — who now goes by Janay Rice — were originally charged with simple assault in the altercation.
A representative from the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office agreed with that assessment the night of the incident. But a few days later, the case was turned over to the Prosecutor's Office for review, which eventually led to the higher charge. It was the same day TMZ Sports posted a video showing Palmer's unconscious body being moved from an elevator by Rice.
The office chose to drop the charge against Palmer. Rice was indicted on the aggravated assault charge March 27. The next day, he and Palmer married.
That date had already been set, Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, said Thursday.
Acting First Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton said it's not uncommon to have the case reviewed again with all the information, and have a charge changed.
"It happens all the time," she said.
When asked about the fact that the prosecutor on duty that night was told exactly what the video inside the elevator showed, including that Palmer was knocked unconscious, Ruberton said she couldn't say exactly what was said in the conversation, which was on a taped line.
“He’s very remorseful for the actions that happened that night,” Diamondstein said. “He loves Janay and he wants to move forward.”
He would would not say what preceded the altercation, nor answer a question as to whether Rice had been drinking.
"For a number of different reasons, he acted out of his character," Diamondstein said.
There is no documented history of domestic violence between Rice and Palmer, and Rice has no criminal record.
PTI allows a first-time defendant charged with a third- or fourth-degree crime to go through a program to avoid incarceration. Successful completion of the program results in dismissal of criminal charges. The program can run from six months to four years and include things such as anger management instruction.
But Rice first has to be accepted into PTI. The state has consented to the application, Ruberton said. Whether it agrees to his acceptance will be decided after a full review.
While the aftermath video has garnered attention, the video inside the elevator — which has not been made public — tells what happened. If the case were to go to trial, Ruberton said she is confident she would get a conviction.
Diamondstein told the judge he had all of the discovery in the case, which would include that video. But he would not say what is on it. Asked my media outside court if it shows Rice punching Palmer, he said: “It’s more complex than that. I can’t break it down to you in words that quickly.”
Rice and Palmer arrived to court together.
"I'm a happy father and a happy husband," Rice told a pack of media as he walked toward the Atlantic County Courthouse.
He told reporters he hoped they all had a “blessed day” and that he was enjoying married life.
“Mrs. Rice stands by her husband,” her attorney, Robert Gamburg, said after the hearing. “She loves him and knows the man that he is.”
Janay Rice also wrote a letter supporting the PTI application. Another court date is set for 9 a.m. May 29.
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