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In February of 2014 Ray Rice was in Atlantic City with his fiancée Janay Palmer.  A video shows Ray punching Janay in an elevator and knocking her out cold.  He then drags her out of the elevator, not so gently, when approached by security.  Ray was arrested and charged with aggravated assault in the third degree (N.J.S. 2C:11-1).Ray Rice had a promising career within the NFL as a running back for the Baltimore Ravens. Before that he played for Rutgers University, my alma mater (that is why I chose the Rutgers pic).  His contract was terminated with the Baltimore Ravens following this incident and he has been suspended from the NFL.  He also applied, and was admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.  That means that he will be on probation for at least 12 months.  After the probationary period, if he doesn’t violate the terms of his probation, the charges will be dismissed against him.  This is his one get out of jail free card.

Ray is now married to Janay.  Even if they were just in a relationship, and not engaged to be married, the assault qualifies as domestic violence under N.J.S. 2C:25-17.  For more information on domestic violence in New Jersey read this article.

There is no question that Ray hit Janay, therefore, committing an assault.  The video shows that.  Assault, or in this case aggravated assault, is a Qualifying Crime under the Domestic Violence Act.  Because Ray and Janay where in a Qualifying Relationship, engaged to be married, Janay is a protected person under the Act.

Many have argued that Ray got off to light for hitting his now wife.  Anyone who has seen the video knows Ray’s conduct was inexcusable.  The question really focuses on the appropriate punishment.  What should the Judge and Prosecutor have done?  Too many commentators simple say, something more than this pre-trial intervention.

The commentators forget that the victim has a role to play in any prosecution.  If this was Ray’s only incident and she doesn’t want him prosecuted, they are now married, the State has to consider the rights of the victim in any plea discussion.  Ray may have gotten treatment.  Ray and Janay may have worked hard at fixing their relationship.  The loss of livelihood is certainly a punishment.  What is “right,” is case specific.  Does Ray deserve a second chance?  Does Janay have a say in this?  Our system gives her one.  Did the Prosecutor and Judge get it right this time?  Only time will tell.

If Janay didn’t have legal status in the U.S., it would make a strong case for a U-Visa.  After three of approval, Janay would then be able to file for a green card.  However, now that they are married, Janay could file directly for her green card through the Violence Against Women’s Act.  I would take still images of the video and show how Ray hit her.  It is hard to dispute she was a victim of domestic violence when you have a video/photo of the incident.

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