Ravens running back Ray Rice was indicted by a grand jury Thursday for third-degree aggravated assault for allegedly striking his fiancée. The incident occurred Feb. 15 during the early-morning hours at an Atlantic City casino.
Rice initially faced charges of simple assault, but prosecutors returned a more serious charge of aggravated assault. The charge carries a potential penalty of three to five years in prison.
The Ravens issued a brief statement following Thursday’s charge.
“This is part of the due process for Ray,” the Ravens’ statement said. “We know there is more to Ray Rice than this one incident.”
At the NFL owners meetings this week, coach John Harbaugh said he did not foresee a scenario in which Rice would not be with the Ravens next season. The entire Ravens organization, including owner Steve Bisciotti, has been publically supportive of Rice.
“I’m very confident that he’s someone we want as part of our team,” Harbaugh said, according to a transcript provided by the Pro Football Writers of America. “He will be part of our team. He’s a person of character. The thing that’s really important is to be able to support the person without condoning the action. There’s no justifying what happened.”
However, Rice could be subject to discipline from the NFL no matter what transpires legally. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league was monitoring the case.
After the incident, the website TMZ obtained casino surveillance video of Rice dragging his fiancée, Janay Palmer, out of an elevator. Palmer appeared to be unconscious.
Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, told the Press of Atlantic City that neither Rice nor Palmer wanted to move forward with the case.
“On behalf of Ray Rice we vehemently deny that Mr. Rice committed an aggravated assault,” Diamondstein told the Press of Atlantic City Press. “Both Mr. Rice and Miss Palmer are together, they are happy and they are in counseling.”
Palmer was also originally charged with simple assault, but charges against her have been dismissed.