The office in charge of deciding whether to prosecute former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in a domestic abuse case defended its decision Tuesday.
"Mr. Rice received the same treatment by the criminal justice system in Atlantic County that any first-time offender has, in similar circumstances," Jay McKeen, a spokesman for the Atlantic County prosecutor's office, told ABC News.
"The decision was correct."
Late Tuesday, New Jersey Senate president Steve Sweeney called on acting attorney general John Hoffman to review the decision-making process in the Atlantic County prosecutor's office.
"This video and the violence it shows is extremely disturbing," he said in a statement. "It is a vivid reminder that domestic violence is a serious problem that can't be ignored and shouldn't be treated lightly."
Rice was initially charged with assault by the Atlantic City police in the early hours of Feb. 15. But on March 27, an Atlantic City grand jury, presumably after watching all the Revel casino security camera videos, increased the charge to aggravated assault-bodily injury in the third degree and one count of simple assault. If convicted, Rice faced a penalty of three to five years in prison.
Rice's defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein of Philadelphia, then applied for pretrial intervention, a remedy that allows defendants to avoid conviction if they complete a court-ordered set of requirements. According to New Jersey's pretrial intervention website, PTI is a used in criminal cases that don't involve "violence" and for "victimless crimes."
Pretrial intervention for Rice was approved by PTI director Jill Houck and Atlantic County prosecutor Grace Dovell-Welch. And on May 20, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio approved PTI for Rice at a hearing, according to court documents.
Houck, in an email, declined to comment. Dovell-Welch did not return messages. Judge Donio did not return messages.
Under the terms of PTI, Rice was ordered to take anger management counseling and be supervised, by a probationary period, for 12 months. A proof of participation was required by the court, the records show.
To enter the program, Rice paid the Superior Court of New Jersey a $125 enrollment fee for one year. He was ordered to attend and complete anger management counseling in Maryland.
According to a representative of the probation division, Rice has attended weekly counseling sessions prior to entering the program on May 20. The counselor, a licensed clinical therapist, confirmed Rice's continuing compliance with the program with a representative of the probation division Tuesday afternoon.
PTI is rarely used in aggravated assault cases in Atlantic County, several victims' rights advocates said Tuesday.
"I was stunned," said Donna D'Andrea, a legal advocate for The Women's Center, a domestic violence and sexual abuse help center in Linwood, NJ. "I'm outraged."
D'Andrea said in her nearly 30 years of experience, she cannot recall a single other aggravated assault case being resolved by pre-trial intervention.
"None of it makes any sense on why this was allowed," she said. "Usually, there is a plea deal to a lesser charge so the person is put into the system and can be monitored. They didn't do that here. None of it makes any sense why this was allowed to happen this way."
A colleague of D'Andrea, Erin O'Hanlon, the coordinator of community initiatives at The Women's Center, said, "I think the whole situation is very sad ... I am concerned that the only solution in this case was to release Ray Rice. Then you aren't helping anybody. You aren't helping Ray Rice, or Janay Palmer, and you are not helping the NFL change ...
"Sweeping this under the rug doesn't help anybody. If the system doesn't change, we'll be having this conversation again in 18 months or two years about another player."
Monday, acting Atlantic County prosecutor Jim McClain issued a statement saying that his office approved Rice's request for New Jersey's pretrial intervention program "after careful consideration of the information contained in Mr. Rice's application in light of all of the facts gathered during the investigation."
Sweeney said he's asking Hoffman to look at the process as well as the law allowing pretrial intervention and who can access it.
Also Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden said violence against women is the ugliest form of violence there is. He's calling it a stain on America's national character that must be exposed and eliminated. Biden was speaking out at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
He also said that victims can't fully recover until there's a conviction. He said he'll convene a summit aimed at finding ways to allow survivors to sue their abusers in federal court. The Supreme Court struck down that provision of the Violence Against Women Act.
Earlier Tuesday, Biden told NBC that the NFL did the right thing by indefinitely suspending Rice.
Information from ESPN.com's Don Van Natta, Jr., ESPN Enterprise reporter Kelly Naqi, and The Associated Press is included in this report.