Source: Asbury Park Press -
With multiple references to suspended NFL star Ray Rice, the Assembly unanimously approved a half-dozen measures Monday aimed at combating domestic violence.
None of the proposals was written in response to Rice knocking his now-wife unconscious in an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator in February or last week’s video release of the incident. In fact, four of the bills have been awaiting action since 2010.
But the controversy surrounding the former Rutgers University and Baltimore Ravens running back lent a sense of immediacy to the passage of the package that would allow victims to testify by closed-circuit television and allow them to claim self-defense to justify any force they use to protect themselves from someone who is subject of a restraining order.
There are more than 70,000 domestic violence cases a year in New Jersey. More than 4,500 are severe enough to trigger a restraining order.
Rice avoided trial by agreeing to enter the state’s Pretrial Intervention Program. Charges will be dismissed if he successfully completes the program. The NFL suspended him for two games, until the video was made public. He has now been suspended indefinitely, and the Ravens terminated his contract.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said more protection for victims needs to be done. For instance, she said it’s unacceptable that 40,000 domestic violence cases go through municipal courts, whose judges get 90 minutes of training on the subject. She said people who testified before the Assembly committee that considered the bills said Rice’s admission to the PTI program wasn’t unique.
“We have a long way to go in connecting the intentions of this house – because I assure you, everyone in this house believes that if you knock a woman unconscious and drag her out of an elevator you belong in prison – and what’s actually going on in the courthouses across New Jersey,” she said.
Casagrande and 12 fellow Republican women lawmakers issued statements following the votes that called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign over his handling of domestic violence, both the Rice issue and the indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for injuring his son by disciplining him by lashing him with a thin branch.