Friend to claim marijuana was his

Updated: October 21, 2004, 10:43 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony was cited for marijuana possession while boarding the team plane last week, though the Denver Nuggets star says the bag was left in his backpack by a friend.

Carmelo Anthony

Anthony, 20, was issued a summons last Friday at Denver International Airport while the Nuggets were waiting to board a flight to Milwaukee for a preseason game.

"I am innocent of this charge because I did not use or intentionally possess marijuana. I had no idea that there was marijuana in my backpack," Anthony read from a statement before Thursday's exhibition game in Los Angeles against the Clippers. "I sincerely regret any embarrassment this unfortunate incident has had on my family, supporters and the Denver Nuggets organization. They have always stood by me, and that means the world to me."

Anthony's attorney, Daniel Recht, said that the marijuana was left there by an out-of-town friend who borrowed the backpack last week.

"The friend obviously uses marijuana and left a small amount in the backpack when he returned it to Carmelo," Recht said. "Carmelo had no idea there was any marijuana in the backpack."

Anthony was charged with possessing less than 1 ounce of marijuana, a petty offense with a maximum $100 fine and no jail time.

Recht said Anthony's friend, James Cunningham of St. Louis, has signed an affidavit taking responsibility for leaving the marijuana in the backpack. Cunningham often stays with Anthony when he's in Denver on business.

Recht said he has met with a city attorney and believes the citation against his client could be dismissed as soon as Friday.

"I am perfectly confident that the city attorney will be fair and it is my belief that he will in fact dismiss the case against Carmelo Anthony," Recht said.

Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe doesn't want Anthony to be treated differently because he is a professional athlete.

"Our position is that the city attorney has always been extremely fair, and I think that Carmelo -- we want him treated like everybody else," Vandeweghe. "We want all the facts to come to light, which I think that most or all of them have."

Recht also said he received a letter from Vandeweghe verifying Anthony passed four random drug tests last season and another just two weeks ago. The letter also said tests from U.S. Olympic Committee at the Athens Games this summer came back negative.

"He was devastated to learn there was marijuana left in the backpack," Recht said.

Frank Moya, Cunningham's attorney, said he was skeptical before speaking with Cunningham but believed his story after spending "a lot of time" with him and "putting him under the scope."

"He felt awful, and he felt he needed to try to protect against someone else paying for his mistake," Moya said.

The charismatic Anthony led Syracuse to an NCAA title as a freshman in 2003, then was the third overall pick in the draft. He helped the Nuggets to one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history, from the league's worst record at 17-65 to reaching the playoffs last year for the first time since 1995.

There also have been some growing pains.

Anthony refused to go back into a game last season after his teammates complained about his shot selection and he was relegated to the bench at the Athens Games after U.S. coach Larry Brown called him a selfish player.

Anthony also was involved in a scuffle at a New York bar after someone reportedly spit on his girlfriend, MTV host La La Vasquez. He said the incident was blown out of proportion.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press