Conflict complaint 'without merit'

Updated: October 3, 2003, 12:40 AM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The son of former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes will remain as the judge in a case accusing suspended Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett of lying to police about items stolen from a car.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David W. Fais denied the affidavit of disqualification on Thursday, saying the motion by Clarett's attorneys was "without merit."

Franklin County Municipal Judge Steven B. Hayes responded to Clarett's lawyers' affidavit that he should be allowed to hear the misdemeanor case.

"I know of no reason, and can think of no reason, why I couldn't be a fair and impartial jurist in this case," Hayes said in a letter Tuesday to Fais.

Columbus attorney Percy Squire claimed, in an affadavit filed with the court on Sept. 24, that Hayes should disqualify himself because, though cases are assigned to judges at random, "the particular nature of the claims and defenses that will ... have to be raised in this matter, will create circumstances where the impartiality of Judge Hayes may reasonably be questioned."

In the memorandum, Squire continued by saying that Hayes' "unique tie" to Ohio State through his father and the high profile of Clarett's case "will clearly create questions as to whether Woody Hayes' son may tend to favor the university or perhaps react with greater zeal to issues concerning the university than would otherwise be the case."

Woody Hayes coached the Buckeyes' football team from 1951 to 1978, leading them to five national titles and 13 Big Ten Conference crowns. He died in 1987.

Friday's pretrial hearing in the case has been postponed and rescheduled for Oct. 20, the city attorney's office said Thursday.

Clarett has pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor falsification charge, which has a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

He is charged with filing an exaggerated theft report with campus police in April after a dealership's car he was borrowing was broken into. The police report said cash and stereo equipment worth thousands of dollars was taken.

The report was among factors that led to investigations by the NCAA and Ohio State. The university suspended Clarett for the season for accepting money from a family friend and for lying about it to investigators.

Clarett set Ohio State freshman records with 1,237 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns last season as the Buckeyes won the national championship for the first time in 34 years.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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