Clarett pleads not guilty to robbery charges

Updated: February 22, 2006, 5:24 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett pleaded not guilty to charges that he flashed a gun at two people behind a bar on New Year's Day and took a cell phone.

Prosecutors allowed Clarett to enter his plea on robbery charges Tuesday with the clerk's office, avoiding his arraignment in court scheduled for Friday, Duane Williams, deputy clerk for Franklin County Common Pleas Court, said Wednesday.

Clarett got into a sport utility vehicle with two men after he was identified by the bar owner, who happened to come out into the alley, police said. No one was injured.

Clarett, who led Ohio State to the 2002 national championship, was sought by police for almost two days before he surrendered about the time the Buckeyes were completing a victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.

The 22-year-old player was ordered to stay away from the two people he allegedly confronted outside the bar when entered the plea, Williams said. The order is a routine requirement in robbery cases.

He also had to surrender his passport and was released on his own recognizance. He previously had been freed on a $50,000 bond, which had expired.

Last month, Clarett was indicted on two counts of aggravated robbery, four lesser robbery charges and a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 16 touchdowns as an Ohio State freshman in 2002.

Clarett has had previous legal problems. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after admitting he lied when he said $10,000 in clothing, CDs, cash and stereo equipment were stolen from his car in the summer of 2003.

Ohio State suspended Clarett for misleading investigators, and for receiving special benefits worth thousands of dollars from a family friend.

Clarett dropped out of Ohio State, then challenged the NFL's requirement that players wait three years after high school before turning pro. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court before Clarett lost.

After two years in limbo, he was taken in the third round by the Denver Broncos in last year's draft. He was cut in August.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press