CHRISTIANSBURG — Former Virginia Tech basketball player Christopher Ashton Clarke was cleared of a marijuana charge Thursday after his attorney argued that police did not establish whose drugs were found in an apartment Clarke shared with former teammate Ty Outlaw.
Clarke, 23, has transferred to play for Texas Tech after finishing a sociology degree as a Hokie.
The former Blacksburg resident was not in Montgomery County General District Court Thursday. Instead, his attorney, Fred Kellerman of Christiansburg, successfully poked holes in the accusation that Clarke possessed marijuana on March 20.
That was the day that Blacksburg Officer H.A. Rose arrived at Clarke and Outlaw’s apartment due to a report of a narcotics violation, and ended up charging both men.
The charge against Outlaw briefly drew national attention because it seemed that it might prevent him from playing in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Outlaw was in California with the team when Rose arrived at his and Clarke’s apartment. Then-coach Buzz Williams allowed Outlaw to continue playing after passing a drug test.
Clarke was not a member of the tournament team because he was suspended from the Hokies squad in October 2018 for undisclosed reasons.
On Thursday, Kellerman asked Rose if she knew that Clarke also was out of the state with the basketball team when she carried out her search. The officer said that she did not know that.
Rose told Judge Gino Williams that on March 20, she could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from Clarke and Outlaw’s apartment but no one would come to the door. The next morning, she returned with a search warrant and was let into the apartment by the residential complex’s management, Rose said.
No one was home as she searched and found a smoking device with green plant material inside it in the apartment’s living room, Rose said. A test showed that the plant was marijuana, she said.
Kellerman noted that the drug was found in a common area of the apartment and asked if Rose found anything illegal in Clarke’s bedroom. Rose said that she had not.
Kellerman asked Williams to dismiss the charge and the judge agreed, saying there needed to be more to connect the defendant and the marijuana that the officer found.
Outlaw — who finished his Virginia Tech basketball career with five points in the team’s Sweet 16 loss to Duke — still faces two drug charges in Montgomery County.
Outlaw has a Nov. 14 hearing in general district court on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge from March 20, and a Dec. 12 hearing in the same court on a felony charge of possessing a controlled substance from an April 7 incident.