Clarett seeking early release

Updated: June 18, 2009, 6:03 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio prosecutor is opposing former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett's request for early release from prison to pursue an NFL career.

Clarett says the sooner he can be released, the sooner he can make a comeback, possibly in the NFL. He says he's heard from teams while he's been in prison.

But first, Clarett must overcome the objections of Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, who says the former Buckeyes standout hasn't made a strong case to be released so early in his prison term.

On Thursday, O'Brien asked Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio Parole Board to reject Clarett's April request for an early release.

Clarett was sentenced in September 2006 to serve at least 3 years for a holdup outside a Columbus bar and a separate highway chase earlier that year that ended with police finding loaded guns in his SUV.

That means Clarett could be out as early as March, although he would still have to spend six months in a halfway house, according to O'Brien's letter to Strickland.

Clarett asked the parole board for a pardon, reprieve or commutation of his sentence.

Clarett's attorney, Percy Squire, says his client has an opportunity to play NFL, arena or Canadian professional football if he's released within the next few months. NFL teams have contacted Clarett in prison, but Squire wouldn't identify which teams.

Squire said that while March doesn't seem that far off, time is crucial for the 25-year-old Clarett.

"Whether he is permitted to go in the summer of 2009 versus the summer of 2010 can make a huge difference," Squire said.

"We're talking a matter of months here, but it could have a huge impact on his ability to pursue a livelihood. Waiting another year could basically eliminate any opportunity for him to ever play."

The former tailback led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship.

Clarett's crimes and behavior after his arrest don't warrant special consideration, O'Brien said.

"During the arrest he became combative and began to kick, spit and cuss at the officers in the back of the transport van," O'Brien said of Clarett's arrest in August 2006 after a chase.

"Those facts do not suggest the kind of conduct that warrants the intervention of Executive clemency," he said.

The parole board is still gathering information about Clarett's request, according to prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Culp.

Culp said Clarett is refusing interview requests.

Clarett stirred controversy in December 2002 by criticizing Ohio State officials for not allowing him to fly home to Youngstown for the funeral of a friend.

But on Jan. 3, 2003, he provided the winning touchdown against Miami, giving Ohio State its first national title in 34 years.

The following September he was suspended by the university for violating NCAA rules. He later unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's eligibility rules.

The Denver Broncos drafted Clarett in the third round in 2005, but he was hurt in training camp and cut without playing a down.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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