The biggest public policy message that has emerged in Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice's assault case is that even though he is a violent offender who has enjoyed all the justice money can buy him, there are still people out there willing to throw public safety and the integrity of the courts under the bus to save Rice from himself for the sake of Sunday sports entertainment.
Vice President Joe Biden said something very important this week during this interview with the Today Show in response to the aftermath of TMZ's release of the footage of Rice assaulting his wife:
"It's never, never, never the woman's fault. No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman. No means no. [...] The one regret I have is we call it domestic violence as if it's a domesticated cat. It is the most vicious form of violence there is, because not only the physical scars are left, the psychological scars that are left. This whole culture for so long has put the onus on the woman. What were you wearing? What did you say? What did you do to provoke? That is never the appropriate question."
Like Biden, I too reserve my concerns for the victims of violent crimes and the interests of public safety, but I could care less about Rice being able to keep his good name or his job, or whether my Sunday football experience will be the same without him. Rice chose to be a violent offender, and since he took that risk at the expense of public safety, Rice deserves to lose his good name and his prominent position within the NFL, and he should have done jail time.
Biden is right, it's time to stop using court industry buzz words like "abuser" and "domestic dispute" to describe violent offenders and the crimes they commit. "Abuse" is not necessarily a crime so much as morally reprehensible conduct and a subjectively evaluated personal problem. The term "domestic abuse" is so vague that it is used to describe anything from a heated argument to a triple homicide, then imputes blame to the victim for knowing the attacker while concealing the inherent threat to public safety that violent predators like Rice pose to society.
Since the cops can only arrest the jerks who are also crime suspects, shouldn't advocates should be teaching victims of violent crimes to use more specific descriptors like "violent offender" and "criminal assault" that accurately reflect the crime scenes where the predator targeted them? Why don't they?
NFL, COURTS KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING IN RICE CASE
Judges and prosecutors are given a public salary to understand violent criminals and protect the public from them, the NFL is not.
Scott Benner wrote that nothing about the NFL's handling of the cover up in the Rice case should be shocking given their history of putting violent criminals like Michael Vick on the field post-conviction. A PBS Frontline report about the NFL's "concussion crisis" shows why the NFL is just a for-profit corporation with no meaningful obligation to protect their own player's safety, never mind protect the public at large from their walking Sunday afternoon investments. That's the justice system's job.
At this point, I'm going to stop using the term "justice system" because I don't think it applies to the New Jersey courts, as I'm unable to perceive a legitimate explanation for how public safety and justice was served when the court waived the law [that is supposed to apply equally to all New Jersey citizens] in order to let Rice off the hook without meaningful consequences.
According to ESPN, on May 20, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio approved Rice's enrollment into a pre-trial intervention program for non-violent offenders who commit victimless crimes (which Rice was presumably not eligible for,) then approved an agreement sanctioned by the District Attorney's office which allowed Rice receive anger management counseling in lieu of actual criminal penalties -- provided that Rice did not get caught assaulting the victim again.
The Ravens suggest that the fact that the victim did not cooperate and gave a public apology for her attacker's choice to knock her out cold at a press conference [hosted by the Ravens] should be considered. As if the publicity mavens at the NFL don't know that throwing the word "domestic" into any headline shifts the blame away from the offender by implying that the whole family has problems that could be solved with a little therapy (instead of offender accountability).
These arguments are entirely irrelevant given that there is no lack of evidence or need for the victim's cooperation in the Rice case. To the contrary, the court has an obligation to act lawfully and in the interests of public safety by going forward with the case against Rice.
Yet the message from both the NFL and the New Jersey courts to violent crime victims is shockingly similar, which to say that even if your attacker is caught on tape assaulting you in a public elevator, best case scenario is that the criminal proceedings and publicity fury will destroy the victim's reputation, and even if he is found guilty, both the NFL and the court will reward the offender with services to help HIM recover.
RICE CASE -- BUSINESS AS USUAL?
Former prosecutor Wendy Murphy says that instead of throwing tax dollars at the problem, it's high time for the public to "take a closer look at the gushing flow of money from DC that literally rewards violent male offenders with cash, therapy and training programs AFTER they get in trouble with the courts for assaulting the crime victims who live with them."
At the time, Murphy was referring to the case of legendary Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy's son Jared, who was convicted this year of stabbing his fiancé Amy Martel to death in front of their 4-year-old daughter just hours after he was arrested and released from jail for assaulting her. At the time of the murder, Remy was a veteran of the Massachusetts probation department's pre-trial "free walk" drug and anger management counseling programs. By September 2011, Remy's privately bankrolled defense attorney Peter Bella had convinced Massachusetts judges to close a staggering 18 cases charging Remy with dozens of traffic, violence and/or drug related related offenses. Only twice in 20-years did the courts find Remy guilty, and on ten occasions, the courts outright dismissed the charges against him. Remy was also granted six continuances without findings (CWOF's) that resulted in dismissals.
According to Bella, there was no "pay to play" scandal involved with Remy's case because his client never received any special treatment from the courts, this is just some deadly business as usual.
Given that much of the Massachusetts Probation Department's own staff stood trial for racketeering, bribery, and conspiracy, I'm appalled to see headlines suggesting that taxpayers should throw money down the toilet to give their highly educated cronies more training. Isn't it enough that many of their cohorts have already received immunity in exchange for their testimony? Never mind Jared Remy's track record, are these professionals safe and morally qualified to work for the State if they don't recognize the basic signs of criminal activity in the departments they spend eight hours a day, five days a week working in?
It is almost as if the OJ Simpson cases have taught us nothing about how the difference between a violent predator being found "not guilty" and a prosecutor's ability to meet the legal burden of proof required to convict is often a function of how much "justice" and bad press coverage of the victim a defendant can afford.
According to studies funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as many as 1 in 4 U.S. children will experience maltreatment in their lifetimes, and the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment in the United States is approximately $124 billion. Although there are no studies I am aware of which show how much of this money ends up in the hands of crooked attorneys and judges, there's no denying that $124 billion is a pretty powerful financial incentive for unethical court and health industry professionals to hand deliver crime victims to offenders like Rice.
Rather than throwing more money at the problem, perhaps it's time to defund offender-friendly courts like those in New Jersey and Massachusetts that pose a threat to public safety, which would in itself be an investment in victim protection and recovery. Maybe what victims really need is support and understanding from the media and the public, and some accountability and transparency from the legal system.