Ray Rice could have charges of aggravated assault against him dropped if he is accepted into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders, according to the Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton. Rice's application must first be accepted by a prosecutor, but if that happens he could avoid trial and potential jail time. The charges stem from an incident in Atlantic City in February when he was caught on camera dragging his unconscious then-fiancee Janay Palmer out of a casino elevator.
If Rice is not accepted into the program, he may still accept an offered plea deal from the prosecution that would put him on probation and require him to attend anger management counseling.
Rice pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday after walking into court hand-in-hand with Palmer. The two were married one day after a grand jury indicted Rice on aggravated assault in March. Since, Palmer has said that she would not like to see the case proceed, but prosecution reportedly feels that it has a strong case against the Baltimore Ravens running back even without her cooperation. Via the Sporting News' Ray Slover:
"I'm confident with the evidence we have that I could secure a conviction at trial, with or without her," Ruberton said.
She said prosecutors have additional video evidence beyond what was published by the website, but she would not describe its contents.
Though Rice appears to have a good chance to avoid jail time, he may not escape the ire of the NFL. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the league will review Rice's case, even if the running back avoids conviction. According to Ravens blog Baltimore Beat Down, the punishment for a first-time offense could be up to two games, which could affect the team's playoff hopes tremendously.
If Rice is out for two games, that means the Ravens won't have him for the first two games of the season against the Bengals and Steelers, two division games that could mean a lot later in the year. It'll be important for Bernard Pierce and a potential rookie running back to be ready to start the regular season without Rice, assuming he's not available when the season starts.
Rice is coming off a career-worst season, during which he averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Pierce was just as bad, averaging 2.9 YPC. Rice is the stronger pass catcher of the two, and his absence would be a heavy blow to an offense that struggled to find a rhythm last season.