Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice pleaded not guilty Thursday to assault charges stemming from an incident with his then-girlfriend in an Atlantic City casino elevator. His lawyer said Rice is "ashamed'' and "sorry'' about his conduct but would not specify exactly what Rice did.
After the five-minute court hearing, Rice applied for New Jersey's pretrial intervention program, which allows for charges to be dismissed against first-time offenders who participate in the program and meet certain conditions. The county prosecutor will decide whether Rice is allowed to enter the program.
If not, prosecutors have offered Rice a plea bargain that would spare him jail time if he participates in anger management counseling.
"He's ashamed of his conduct and he's sorry for what he did,'' attorney Michael Diamondstein told reporters outside the courthouse.
"There was a disagreement between him and his wife,'' Diamondstein said. "He made a mistake. He loves Janay and wants to move forward. This was a momentary lapse of reason.''
Security video obtained by TMZ Sports shows Rice removing the motionless body of Janay Palmer from an elevator at Revel Hotel Casino on Feb. 15. She did not comment as the two walked into the courthouse.
The couple married a day after Rice was indicted.
If convicted, Rice could face three to five years in prison.
The former Rutgers star walked to the courthouse holding hands with Palmer. He said he is a "happy father and a happy husband.'' When asked by reporters what he hoped would happen, Rice responded, "for you all to have a blessed day.''
Originally, Palmer and Rice were charged with simple assault, but the Atlantic County prosecutor's office reviewed the case and dropped the charge against Palmer. A grand jury lodged the more serious charge of aggravated assault against Rice.
Through her lawyer, Palmer has indicated she does not want the case to proceed. But prosecutor Diane Ruberton said Palmer's cooperation is not crucial to it.
"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.
Ruberton said Rice's celebrity played no role in the case, adding that plea deals are routinely offered to defendants charged with third-degree crimes, as is the case with Rice.
Diamondstein said he expects a decision on whether Rice will be allowed into pretrial intervention within the next few weeks.
"He's an excellent candidate for it,'' he said. "He's just a high-character individual. He's a good guy.''
The conditions of pretrial intervention would include staying out of trouble for a year, as well as undergoing counseling and remaining gainfully employed, the attorney said.
"They've been going to counseling and working on some of the issues they have,'' Diamondstein said. "They're very happy.''