Controversial former NFL star Ray Rice may not have a future in football, but it looks like he won't be facing any prison time either.
An Atlantic City judge dismissed pending domestic violence charges against the ex-Baltimore Ravens running back due to his completion of a required pre-trial intervention program. Rice was caught on tape striking his now-wife Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator last February. After initially receiving a two-game suspension from the NFL, Rice was banned from the league indefinitely once graphic video surfaced of the assault.
Rice appealed the indefinite suspension and won the right to be reinstated in the NFL last fall, but has struggled to find any team willing to avail themselves of his services. Rice and his wife have insisted repeatedly that he had never engaged in domestic abuse prior to the elevator incident, which he calls "the biggest mistake of my life." In April, Rice was interviewed by New York magazine, and he spoke candidly about the uphill battle to redeem his image.
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“The hardest part for me was people who don’t know me at all were writing about me or talking about me. I understand the seriousness of what I did. But I’m like, man, they just don’t know who I am," Rice said.
His wife Janay Rice has steadfastly supported him, making the media rounds to argue that he deserves a second chance. "No matter how long we have known each other and no matter what the circumstance is, Ray understands that violent behavior like this, even one time, is never acceptable. Ray told the truth and has fully accepted responsibility for his actions, which allowed us to work together at improving ourselves and get to the better place we are today," she told ESPN in November.
Last year, Rice became something of a poster boy for the NFL's history of mishandling domestic abuse cases. Public pressure for reform league policy grew so deafening that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rolled out a whole new set of policies in August 2014 for responding to alleged violence perpetrated by players, including an automatic six-game suspension without pay for a first infraction and the possibility of a permanent ban following a second allegation.
At the time, Goodell publicly admitted he wasn't harsh enough on Rice when he first levied punishment on him. "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better," he wrote in an open letter to all the league's owners. "And we will."
Goodell has long maintained that Rice was "ambiguous" about everything that took place that fateful February night when they initially met regarding the incident. Both Janay and Ray Rice and sources close to them have refuted that claim.