Ray Rice Domestic Violence

By now many people have heard about the domestic violence situation involving NFL player Ray Rice and his then fiancée, Janay Palmer.  A video was released showing Ray pulling an unconscious Janay from the hotel elevator.  Based on that and an investigation by the NFL, Ray Rice was suspended for two games, amidst public outcry.  Later, another tape surfaced showing the entire incident, including the punch that knocked out Janay.

This new evidence, and heated public opinion, compelled NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, to suspend Ray indefinitely.  Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Ravens cut Ray from the team.  His sponsors, such as Nike, are also cancelling their endorsement contracts with Ray.  His future in professional football remains uncertain.

You might be asking, “Why would a Louisville, KY criminal defense lawyer want to blog about it?”  Let me begin by saying that all three parties (Ray, Janay and the NFL) are guilty of being knuckleheads.  For the record, I don’t condone domestic violence against women in any form.

When Ray Rice punched his girlfriend/fiancée, he willfully crossed the line.  He put his relationship, his career and his financial future at risk.  I’ve successfully defended men and women accused of domestic violence in Kentucky.  It’s not a matter of approving of what they did.  It’s a matter of holding the courts, the police and other law enforcement officials accountable for playing by the rules. Compelling evidence must be presented before a judge and jury.  My role as a defense lawyer is to vigorously protect the rights of my clients, without being influenced by my personal feelings about the alleged incident.

In my legal opinion, when the case was initially argued, Ray Rice benefitted from some good legal representation.  The prosecutor indicted him for aggravated assault.  However he received pre-trial “diversion.”  This arrangement enables the defendant to complete counseling related to the specific crime.  The advantage is that, generally, no further legal action or penalty will be pursued.  That’s an option I’ve pursued for many clients in Louisville and in criminal courts throughout Kentucky.

As for Janay Palmer, in my less than humble opinion, she’s guilty of staying in an abusive relationship.  The decision to stand by her man may be based on her love for Ray Rice.  It could be based on an anticipated financial benefit.  It might be something entirely different.  That decision is between Janay and Ray.  I’ve handled a fair share of Louisville divorce cases.  Whenever domestic violence is involved, the victim can sometimes assume a less-than-logical view of the circumstances.  I’m not privy to the motivations Janay has, but however this turns out, I hope she’ll find the strength to protect herself.

Finally, as for Roger Goodell and the NFL, I’m still scratching my head.  As a defense lawyer, I gather the facts of the case, review the evidence and deliver arguments to defend my clients, who may be charged with DUI, various drug crimes or other charges.  The court expects both sides to do a thorough investigation and present their sides of the case.  After that, the jury or judge eventually renders a decision.  That’s not necessarily what happened here.

Only after the 2nd tape of Ray Rice punching Janay surfaced, did the NFL commissioner and others decide to take additional action against Ray.  How thoroughly did they really investigate in the first place?  They knew something happened.  They learned about the possibility of another tape.  However, at this time, they’re sticking with the story that they made requests but were unable to obtain a copy.  If I knew that evidence existed that might impact my client’s case, you can be absolutely sure I’d do everything legally possible to find it.

TMZ was able to obtain a copy of the other tape.  The explicit video was made public and the rest is history.  The NFL decided to go back after Ray Rice and take additional action.  Under Kentucky law, once the case has been decided, even if new evidence surfaces, it’s very difficult (almost impossible) for the prosecution to re-open the case and subject the defendant to new charges.  My clients know that when I win their cases, the prosecutor and the Commonwealth of Kentucky rarely get “a second bite at the apple.”  They should have been better prepared for game day.

Obviously, what the NFL does under its own rules and policies isn’t the same as how a case is handle in court.  However, as I’ve outlined above, I find the NFL and Commissioner Goodell guilty of failing to fully investigate the alleged crimes.  I also find them guilty of altering the penalties against Ray Rice after making their initial decision, just to protect themselves.

Domestic violence shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It seems everyone tried to take the easy way out.  In this case, the court of public opinion is going to condemn all of them.