ST. LOUIS -- Veteran NFL running back Laurence Maroney is hoping to catch on with another team after his acquittal of a misdemeanor marijuana charge in St. Louis, his attorney said Wednesday.
Maroney, who grew up in St. Louis County, was among five people arrested in January for possessing marijuana. Maroney was charged in March and opted for a jury trial.
But at a hearing Tuesday, after two police officers testified, defense attorney Scott Rosenblum asked Circuit Judge Elizabeth Byrne Hogan for a directed verdict, saying prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof in the case. The judge agreed and found Maroney not guilty.
"It's unusual because it hardly ever happens," Rosenblum said of the directed verdict. "The judge is saying the case doesn't need to go any further because, based on the evidence, the state hasn't made a case."
Messages seeking comment from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office were not returned.
Maroney, 26, was chosen by the New England Patriots as the 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft. In four seasons with the Patriots, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry with 21 touchdown runs, and 10.2 yards per reception with one touchdown catch. His best season was 2009, when he set career highs with 194 carries and nine touchdowns.
He was traded to Denver for a fourth-round draft pick on Sept. 14, 2010. He was injured when he arrived with the Broncos and played in just four games last season, rushing 36 times for 74 yards, a 2.1-yard average. He didn't play in the final 10 games and was deactivated for the last eight. His contract expired.
Rosenblum said Maroney has two workouts lined up, though he would not name the teams. The attorney added the acquittal will help Maroney's chances of landing back in the NFL.
"He needed it to move forward," Rosenblum said. "It's a different situation when you're a free agent."
Maroney claimed innocence from the start after his arrest, even going on St. Louis radio stations to say he did nothing wrong.
Police said that around 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, officers saw three vehicles near Chaifetz Arena at Saint Louis University causing traffic to slow because the vehicles repeatedly stopped so occupants could talk to people on the street. When officers approached, they reportedly smelled marijuana.
Officers also found three guns inside one of the vehicles, police said at the time. Maroney was not charged with a weapons violation.
All told, five men were arrested for marijuana possession. It wasn't immediately clear how many were formally charged.
Maroney was a standout at Normandy High School in St. Louis County, and has remained active in the St. Louis community during his NFL career, frequently participating in charitable efforts.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press