City's former VRI leader answers charges from June arrest - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City's former VRI leader answers charges from June arrest

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Richard Bennett is the CEO of the non-profit "A Better Tomorrow." Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com Richard Bennett is the CEO of the non-profit "A Better Tomorrow." Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The man once tapped to lead Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative (VRI) is speaking out for the first time against charges that cost him that leadership role.

Richard Bennett is the CEO of the non-profit "A Better Tomorrow." He was days away from entering into a contract with the city to help with the VRI when he was arrested one night in June.

Police found drugs and alcohol in his van. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and violating open container laws. Bennett, with his wife and attorney by his side, continued to deny all charges Friday.

Bennett said he is prescribed the hydrocodone pills found in his van. He also showed Channel 3 the drug test he took that proves he was clean of any drugs.

"Falsely accused. I'm gonna be vindicated from it," he said. "i'm very frustrated with the things that have been going on the last few months."

Police arrested Bennett after the say they found him in a parked minivan in East Lake with an unidentified woman. Bennett and his attorney claim he was getting information for the VRI.

"He met with people in areas of town where you probably wouldn't want to be late at night," said attorney Gerald Webb. "But that was the job that he was called upon to do and that's what he did."

Upon news of his arrest, the mayor's office distanced itself from Bennett and took up the VRI contract with a different non-profit. Bennett said despite that, he still works with some of the city's most troubled youth.

"I'll tell what I do very seriously and anybody that know me... My word is my bond," Bennett said. "I want the young people to know -- Mr. Bennett still loves them, still on the case, and continue to do it until the day that God take me from them."

Bennett's court case was passed to Sept. 12 so his attorney can get more evidence from police.


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