A judge acquitted Richard Bennett on Tuesday afternoon -- before the jury could deliberate -- because there wasn't enough proof to find him guilty of possessing marijuana.

Bennett's nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youth, A Better Tomorrow, was affiliated with the city's Violence Reduction Initiative last year. The city cut ties after the arrest last June.

"Whether or not he's working with the mayor's office, he's still helping at-risk youth. His heart is there. His love is there. His effort is there," said Bill Speek, one of Bennett's attorneys.

"He's never stopped that mission. Even without the funding, he never stopped that mission," added defense attorney Gerald Webb.

Police discovered Bennett in East Lake Park with a woman he knew through his non-profit work, Qwentina Holiday. She testified Bennett would help her pay for gas money.

Police found less than two grams of marijuana in the glove box of the minivan Bennett was driving. The vehicle was registered to A Better Tomorrow.

Bennett's wife, Jessica, who also works for the nonprofit, testified that five people are authorized to drive the minivan to pick up troubled clients and take them to court dates and job interviews.

Bennett also took a drug test after he was arrested. It came back clean.
Judge Barry Steelman sided with Bennett, saying there was not enough proof that tied Bennett to being in possession of the drugs.

"He's truly vindicated," Webb said. "I hope people will look at this as an example of not just rushing to judgment on individuals. Just because you're charged with a crime does not in fact mean you're guilty."