Opponents of domestic violence say the dismissal of Ray Rice's charges -- while perhaps not shocking -- could have lasting negative effects on how the nation views violence against women. The former Baltimore Ravens running back's domestic violence charges were dropped Thursday following his completion of a pretrial intervention (PTI) program.
"I guess I have to say I'm not surprised," said Rene Renick, vice president of programs and emerging issues for Washington's National Network to End Domestic Violence. "I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised."
Judge Michael Donio told ABCNews.com he had signed a dismissal of the third-degree aggravated assault charge Thursday morning. The arrest remains on his record, but there are no charges.
"I was just presented with a dismissal order from Prosecutor [James] McClain -- which means that Ray Rice has successfully completed all of his terms and conditions of his PTI -- therefore based on the Prosecutors recommendation I will be signing Mr. Rice's dismissal of his case today," Donio wrote to ABCNews.com in an email.
Rice was charged with assault after he knocked out his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February 2014. Surveillance video from inside the elevator later surfaced, and the running back was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after initially receiving a two-game ban. Rice has apologized for his actions, and he and Palmer have since married. The 28-year-old was later reinstated by the league, but has no team has yet signed him.
Rice's PTI program -- which allowed for the dismissal -- involved a fine and anger management classes. "This is not about his anger; it was about [Rice's] choice," Renick said. "He chose to batter that woman in an elevator, and I'm guessing he thought no one would see it."
The fact that Rice was allowed to enter a PTI program at all is quite rare in the state of New Jersey. Less than 1 percent of all domestic violence assault cases from 2010-13 in New Jersey were resolved through a pretrial intervention program, reported ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in September.
"Given the severity of Mr. Rice's violence and the charges filed against him, it is concerning that this program was ever presented, and accepted as an option," the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence wrote Thursday in a statement. "We believe completion of the PTI is hardly proof of personal change, nor was the program appropriate for his crime of domestic violence."
Renick said that cases with celebrities and high-profile athletes often end in nonconvictions and that such results negatively affect the public's perception about the seriousness of domestic violence. “Frankly, it's appalling to me that someone could knock their partner unconscious, and we even have it on tape and it goes to a PTI -- Really?" Renick said. "If someone knocked me out on the street, I don’t think they’d be offered that intervention.”
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain told the Press of Atlantic City that PTI was the "appropriate disposition" after considering the pertinent information in Rice's application for the program. Advocacy groups against domestic violence suggested that the response might have lasting effects.
"This is an example of why victims don't come forward, why they do not feel safe and why we still can't trust systems to hold perpetrators accountable," said Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition against Domestic Violence in a statement.