ATLANTA -- A jury found Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall not guilty of misdemeanor battery against his former girlfriend, announcing its verdict Friday after about an hour of deliberations.
Marshall had faced two counts of simple battery stemming from a March 4, 2008, argument with then-girlfriend Rasheedah Watley at the Atlanta condominium the couple shared.
Marshall said after the verdict in Fulton County State Court that he had some butterflies in his stomach when deliberations began, but he was confident in the work of his lawyers.
"I'm just happy now that legally and emotionally we can move past this," Marshall said, adding that he appreciated the support of teammates and fans. He said he planned to celebrate Friday night by watching his Broncos teammates in their preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Marshall's lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, expressed gratitude to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for waiting for the verdict before deciding whether to take any league action. Marshall was suspended for last year's season opener after a series of domestic disputes, and Goodell had said a conviction in the Atlanta case could have led to a second suspension.
Before the verdict was announced, the judge cautioned that no outbursts would be tolerated and asked anyone who might not be able to comply to leave the courtroom. Watley, who was sitting with her family, got up and left. Her family was visibly disappointed at the verdict but declined comment.
Steinberg closed by characterizing Watley as aggressive and volatile, saying she lied to avoid losing the way of life to which she had become accustomed.
"She needs Mr. Marshall," Steinberg said. "She needs him in her life because she had these dreams and hopes, because she cannot let go. When is she going to leave him alone?"
Steinberg told the jury that Watley lied to police about how she got a knife wound in a scuffle with Marshall. Steinberg cited a letter that Watley wrote to Goodell in July 2008 saying Marshall hadn't beaten her, but that her family had pressured her to say he did for monetary reasons.
Watley acknowledged under oath that she had lied in both instances to protect Marshall from getting in trouble and being suspended from the NFL.
"Is this the kind of person who is capable of lying when it matters?" Steinberg asked the jury.
Prosecutor Jamie Mack said in closing that Marshall exerted control through force and financial dependence and that Watley exhibited classic symptoms of battered woman syndrome.
"I don't have a good answer other than I just loved him," Watley said during testimony when asked why she stayed with Marshall after he allegedly beat her on multiple occasions.
The jury heard Friday from a domestic violence expert who testified that battered women frequently have difficulty leaving their abusers.
The March 2008 incident wasn't the first time Marshall had faced domestic violence charges involving Watley.
Marshall was arrested after Watley said he used his vehicle to block her taxi as she tried to leave after an argument at his home in Highlands Ranch, Colo., in March 2007. The case was dismissed.
Marshall pleaded guilty last September to driving while ability-impaired and was sentenced to a year of probation. He was originally charged with driving under the influence after an October 2007 arrest.
Marshall, who's recuperating from hip surgery he had last spring, has asked the Broncos to trade him.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press