By now, everyone has seen the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancé and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator. For the past week, there has been a deluge of articles and stories calling for the removal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell based upon his handling of the situation and the initial two-game suspension that was handed down prior to the release of the elevator video last Monday.
In my opinion, the focus given to Roger Goodell is completely misplaced. Yes, Goodell dropped the ball, so to speak. His investigation was anything but diligent and the initial two-game suspension was a joke.
But why is all the focus on Goodell, Rice’s private-sector employer? Who really dropped the ball here? Rice’s employer or those responsible for the criminal prosecution of this case, i.e., the police, prosecutor, and judge?
Rice was under indictment for a felony assault. Not a simple assault. Not misdemeanor domestic violence. But a serious felony. Rice knocked his fiancé unconscious. Being knocked unconscious involves a substantial risk of death. All caught on video.
What was the end result in this case? Rice was allowed to participate in a Pretrial Intervention program. In Ohio, this is called Diversion. If Rice fully complies with all the conditions and requirements of the program, the indictment will be DISMISSED. Prior to the Rice case, such a program was almost never granted to violent offenders charged with less serious offenses. Why was it granted in this case? With the offense caught on video? Even if the victim, who is now Rice’s wife, refused to cooperate with the prosecution, the offense would be rather simple to prove. So being unable to prove the offense at trial is not an excuse.
If the media and the public want justice, why is there not more outrage that justice was not sought in the criminal justice system? Isn’t the criminal justice system the most appropriate place to assess responsibility for criminal conduct? Why does the entire blame for going easy on Rice appear to lie with Roger Goodell? Is all the media and public wanted was to see Rice’s livelihood destroyed? But for Goodell, justice would have been served? I disagree. If the police, prosecutor, and judge had done their jobs, wouldn’t the issue of punishment be moot? A mere two-game suspension would be moot if Rice is in jail.
As a criminal defense attorney, I must admit that Rice’s attorney obtained one heck of a deal for his client. As a former prosecutor, I am outraged on how the prosecution of this case was handled. As a member of society who watches the news and reads the newspapers, I cannot understand why Goodell is being thrown under the bus, while those whose professions involve equally and fairly enforcing the law and protecting the public are receiving little or no backlash.