Ray Rice's criminal case was handled "outrageously" and "shamefully" ... this according to numerous prosecutors in the office ... TMZ Sports has learned.
Multiple prosecutors in the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office have spoken with TMZ -- on condition of anonymity -- and they say it is "virtually unheard of" for their office to allow someone like Ray Rice to avoid felony charges. What's more ... they say it all happened behind closed doors ... behind their backs.
We previously reported ... the grand jury indicted Rice for felony abuse after viewing the elevator video posted on TMZ Sports. Rice's lawyer then petitioned for something called PTI -- Pre-trial Intervention -- which gives first time offenders a break ... reducing the charge to a minor offense.
As one prosecutor said, "If there is violence or even a threat of violence by the perpetrator, prosecutors almost always object to a PTI and judges always follow the prosecutor's wishes" ... meaning the case gets tried as a felony.
Not so with Rice. We're told the case did NOT go to the Domestic Violence Unit ... which is where it should have gone. Instead, it was micromanaged by Jim McClain, the prosecutor who runs the office and his number 2 prosecutor, Diane Ruberton. The Domestic Violence Unit was in the dark.
Another prosecutor said, "Never did I see a case this violent get PTI. It's off the charts abnormal."
The prosecutors say virtually everyone in the office was outraged when the case was closed on May 20. As one prosecutor said, "The video is disgusting. He [Rice] treated her like a pile of s***, human garbage, dragging her out of the elevator."
And it gets worse. We're told either on June 17 or 18 ... Jim McClain called all of the prosecutors into the conference room and said he would no longer use the Domestic Violence Unit to process cases where the grand jury indicts abusers. We're told McClain said it was just a matter of resources.
But our sources say McClain's decision is a disaster. They say the cases are now handled by overworked prosecutors who handle general crimes and don't have the time or training to handle DV cases. They have no time to help the victims through the process. Our sources say McClain has "all but obliterated the DV Unit."
As for why McClain handled the Rice case the way he did and then emasculated the DV unit ... none of the prosecutors have a clue.
McClain tells TMZ Sports Diane Ruberton is "one of our most experienced attorneys," adding she was assisted by a Victim Witness Coordinator. McClain also said he consulted with Ruberton and another prosecutor who handles PTI domestic violence applications, before deciding not to object to Rice's PTI bid.
McClain says, "Any allegation or intimation that this matter was handled by persons who were inexperienced or unqualified is baseless."
Advises Ray Rice ...
Control Yourself and Don't F-Up
9/12/2014 9:15 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Some Marriages Aren't Worth Saving
**cough cough Janay **
9/12/2014 8:38 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Toni Braxton says she believes in "standing by your man" ... but when it comes to Ray Rice, it's clear the singer thinks Janay Palmer should make an exception.
Toni and her sister Towanda were leaving Mr. Chow in Bev Hills last night when she told us how she sympathizes for Janay for having to deal with her situation in the public eye ... but strongly implies that she should leave her NFL husband.
Braxton's not the only one who feels that way -- "Couples Therapy" host Dr. Jen Berman strongly suggested Janay divorce Ray ... explaining, "I think you can forgive someone and not have to be in a relationship with them."
'Breaking Amish' Star
We Sneak TV ...
To Watch Football!
9/12/2014 6:31 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Everyone loves football ... even the Amish ... who often BREAK their no-electricity rule to catch NFL games on Sundays -- so says "Breaking Amish" star Kate Stoltz.
Stoltz -- who grew up Amish before leaving the farm to become a Maxim model -- was out at Fashion Week in New York City last night when she told us that football is definitely worth the risk.
"We sneak our televisions and we watch football ... like every single week we watch football."
There are two other sports the Amish are (secretly) crazy about -- check out the clip.
'Things Woulda Been Different'
If I Was In Ray Rice Elevator
9/12/2014 6:09 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Ronda Rousey says ... the Ray Rice story would've had a MUCH, MUCH different ending if she was in the elevator with the NFL star.
The UFC champ was at LAX Thursday when she was asked what would have happened if she was in Janay Palmer's shoes on that fateful night in an Atlantic City casino.
Ronda's answer -- well, ya gotta watch the video.
As for the UFC, Dana White says Roger Goodell "should just get up and leave on his own" if he saw or knew about the details of the attack before dishing out a shameful 2 game suspension.
Major NFL Sponsor
'Frustrated' With Goodell
9/12/2014 12:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
One major NFL sponsor tells TMZ Sports ... they are "frustrated" with Roger Goodell -- and will keep a close eye on the investigation to determine whether or not to end its relationship with the NFL.
A key member of the company -- who would not let us use his or his company's name, but trust us ... it's as big as it gets -- tells us, "It's one thing after another [with Goodell]" ... noting the company is particularly "frustrated" with Goodell's "inconsistent policies."
We're told the company has had several internal meetings to discuss its relationship with the league -- but it's NOT at the point of pulling money right now.
"We're concerned with the unknown right now. Where is [the Goodell saga] going next?"
Stay tuned ...
Pulls the Plug on Rihanna
For Ravens/Steelers Game
9/11/2014 2:05 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
CBS has pulled the plug on the musical opening of tonight's "Thursday Night Football" -- and it's very clear it's because they don't want to feature Rihanna in the midst of the Ray Rice scandal.
The opening features Rihanna performing a version of "Run This Town" -- while Don Cheadle introduces the teams and dramatically asks who will "run this town" when the game is over.
But with the Ray Rice scandal in full swing, it's clear CBS didn't want to feature another celebrity who was involved in a high-profile domestic violence incident.
CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus says, "We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone coverage."
The musical opening will be replaced by a discussion of Roger Goodell's recent comments about the Ray Rice incident.
FINALLY Contacts Casino
In Rice Video Investigation
9/11/2014 1:06 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
NFL officials belatedly contacted the Revel Casino Wednesday ... attempting to find out if someone sent the Ray Rice elevator attack video to a League official back in April.
We're told the NFL is trying to find who was in a position to send a video to the League.
Sources familiar with the internal investigation tell TMZ ... the NFL was told casino employees burned 3 DVDs for distribution shortly after the incident. One DVD was burned for the Risk Management department at the Casino.
A second DVD was burned for Casino Security Investigations. We're told this DVD was supposed to be forwarded to local police.
As for the third DVD ... it's curious. We're told it went to a state law enforcement agency. Our sources would not reveal which agency or why the State of New Jersey was involved.
Our sources say just before the casino closed down ... the original version -- not the dub -- was sent over to Risk Management so it could be secured. We're told the risk manager who had received the first copy had left the casino, so her replacement received the original. We do not know if the replacement ever got the dub her predecessor received.
We're told the NFL contacted the casino Wednesday AFTER a report surfaced that someone at the NFL received a DVD back in April.
'Couples Therapy' Host
Janay Should DIVORCE Ray Rice
9/11/2014 10:38 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Janay Rice is making a HUGE mistake by staying with her husband after the elevator attack -- so says the host of VH1's "Couples Therapy."
We spoke with Dr. Jenn Berman -- who says she has an extensive background in domestic violence cases -- and she tells us she was particularly horrified by the Ray Rice footage.
Berman also says while it's good that Ray and Janay seek help -- it's important that they each have SEPARATE counseling sessions .. so that Janay can be open and honest without fear.
As for whether Janay should forgive Ray for the attack -- Berman is clear, "I think you can forgive someone and not have to be in a relationship with them."
What REALLY Shocks Me
About Roger Goodell ...
9/11/2014 8:24 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Hines Ward says he's blown away by Roger Goodell -- telling TMZ Sports he's SHOCKED that with all of the NFL's resources, the Commish says he couldn't get his hands on the elevator tape.
"When you're the NFL and you've got a bunch of FBI [agents], I'm pretty sure they could have got their hands on that tape before they made a ruling."
The former Pittsburgh Steelers superstar -- who's now an NFL commentator on NBC -- says Goodell MUST be held responsible for embarrassing the league ... noting, "He dropped the ball on this one."
As for the Ravens, Ward says the team could be in even more trouble on the field when they face his old team tonight ... check out the clip.
NBA Star Paul George
For Stupid Ray Rice Tweet
9/11/2014 6:41 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
10:47 AM PT -- Larry Bird (President of the Pacers) just ripped George over the comments ... saying, "Paul George's tweets from earlier were thoughtless and without regard to the subject of domestic violence and its seriousness in society."
Paul George's leg must be okay ... 'cause he's backpedaling HARD after tweeting out some STUPID comments about the Ray Rice situation.
The Indiana Pacers star came under fire IMMEDIATELY after writing, "I don't condone hittin women or think it's coo BUT if SHE ain't trippin then I ain't trippin.. Lets keep it movin lol let that man play!"
Then it got worse ... with George writing, "If you in a relationship and a woman hit you first and attacking YOU.. Then you obviously ain't beatin HER. Homie made A bad choice! #StayUp"
Were you even watching the same tape?? It wasn't exactly self defense, dude.
Didn't take long for George to realize he screwed up -- and less than an hour later, tweeted, "Let me apologize to the women and to the VICTIMS of domestic violence people my intent was not to downplay the situation."
I Blame Liquor For Attack
I've Sworn Off Hard Liquor
9/11/2014 1:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Ray Rice says hard liquor was the fuel that triggered his elevator rage and he hasn't touched the stuff in months ... sources close to Rice tell TMZ Sports.
Rice told the Baltimore Ravens he and Janay Palmer had been drinking HEAVILY before the altercation. Rice is telling friends he becomes a different person when he boozes it up ... so he's changed his life.
But he hasn't changed that much, because we're told he still drinks wine ... just not hard liquor.
Our sources say Ray and his wife have gotten deep into religion since the February incident -- they were both baptized in March when they decided to become Born again Christians.
We're also told they've also done religious mentoring with other couples ... including NFL players and their wives.
As for Ray, he issued a statement Tuesday saying he's trying to "work through this" -- noting, "We have a lot of people praying for us."
Hunt Is On
For 1st Ray Rice Interview
9/11/2014 6:16 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Matt Lauer knows ... the first morning show to interview Ray Rice WINS -- and that's why the "Today" show ... and everyone else in morning TV is officially in on the chase to lock down the NFL star.
Matt played coy when we asked if he had already reached out to Rice -- but the answer was written all over his face.
He also explained, "Ray Rice has a story to tell that he wants to get out there." It's clear, Lauer wants to be the one to help him tell that story.
"I think anybody who does what I do for a living would wanna sit down with either of them [Ray and Roger Goodell] and Janay as well."
Ray has texted back and forth with some ESPN reporters over the past few days -- but it's unclear if he's committed to an on-camera interview ... yet.