Non-profit CEO Richard Bennett speaks out after judge drops drug - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Non-profit CEO Richard Bennett speaks out after judge drops drug charge

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - "I thought about how my children would no longer be affected by this and how my wife would no longer be affected by this. But I also understood that people's perceptions are their reality," said Richard Bennett.

A judge acquitted the CEO of the non-profit, A Better Tomorrow, of a drug charge on Tuesday before the case could be sent to the jury.

Bennett was arrested last June after police found marijuana in his organization's community minivan. He found himself caught up in the same system with many of those he helps.

"I truly believe that's why I was allowed to go through this," he told Channel 3 on Wednesday.

Bennett maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, and even passed a drug test after his arrest.

His non-profit deals with at-risk youth and gang members, often taking them to job interviews or court dates to help support them getting their lives back on track.

A Better Tomorrow was set to help spearhead Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's Violence Reduction Initiative, but the city pulled its support right after Bennett's arrest.

Bennett always said the drugs weren't his.

"If you don't have the proper representation or anybody advocating for you in that (legal) system, you can't win," he said.

The charges damaged not only part of his reputation, but cost him a lot of money, too. Bennett said his family nearly lost their house in the past year.

But today, it's no hard feelings.

"I thank Paul Smith and the Mayor's Office for even showing the community that our organization had the capacity, and still has the capacity to do the work that's necessary. Now the community sees that by my vindication, all we need are the resources to do so," said Bennett.

The Mayor's Office released a statement saying: "We are glad Mr. Bennett and his family can put this behind them. We wish them the best moving forward."

"We love this city. We love the young people in this city. We know they have greatness in them. But you're gonna have to get on board with supporting us in that capacity," Bennett said.

According to Bennett, there's been no talk of partnering back up with the Mayor's Office. But regardless, his work in the community continues.

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