Benson marijuana possession charge dismissed

Tuesday morning, the most serious of the three misdemeanor charges brought against <B>Cedric Benson</B> just over a week ago was dropped by the Midland County District Attorney's Office, according to the Dallas <I>Morning News</I>, the Austin <I>American-Statesman</I> and the Associated Press.

Although Benson for the time being will still face minor in possession of alcohol and possession of drug paraphernalia charges, the possession of marijuana charge did not hold up to the D.A.'s early scrutiny. "We just could not show that the defendant was aware of the evidence," the Midland County assistant D.A. in charge of the Benson case told the Statesman.

"We're happy for Cedric that some of the issues have been resolved," Mack Brown said Tuesday afternoon in a statement released through UT. "We have been in constant contact with him and he has been very honest and forthcoming with us. We are glad to see the trust we had in him is holding true. Since some legal issues are still pending, we cannot say anything further. As we've said before, we are proud of the family atmosphere we have at Texas and this will be handled within our family."

Several revelations surfaced at the end of last week that cast doubt on the validity of all of the original charges. According to Benson's attorneys (and later confirmed by the Midland Police Department), the officers that responded to the loud music complaint that resulted in the UT freshman running back's arrest forcibly entered the Midland apartment without a search warrant. Benson's attorneys also claimed that Benson arrived at the apartment approximately 30 minutes before the police's forced entry, that the apartment had no stereo, calling into question the impetus for the police action, and that the police, once in the apartment, found the marijuana confined to a single purse that, along with the drug paraphernalia, was in a room of the apartment that Benson was not in.

In an effort to clear his name from the potential taint of drug use, Benson subjected himself to a drug test last Tuesday, according to attorney Brian Carney's interview with the AP. The Midland attorney said Benson requested the drug test, which was administered in Austin in a state-licensed, NCAA-approved toxicology lab used by The University. "Had he been using marijuana before or at the time of his arrest, it would have shown up in the drug test he was given," Carney said. Benson, though, tested negative for any drugs in his system.

The emergence of so much new information and the fact that one of the original charges against Benson has so quickly been dropped certainly lends credence to my words of last week: "(Questions) must be answered before Benson should be declared guilty in any sense -- legal, moral or otherwise -- despite the many cries of guilt from the court of public opinion." Legal closure could come soon. The Statesman reported that the M.I.P. and possession of drug paraphernalia charges have been forwarded to municipal court.

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