Ex-OSU tailback sent to smaller facility

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A judge on Wednesday cleared the way for ex-Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett to move to a smaller detention facility in Columbus, which could lead to his release within a few months.

Asked by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Fais if he had anything to say, Clarett cleared his throat and said, "I'd like to say I'm humbled."

Clarett, who led the Buckeyes to the 2002 national championship in his only college season, served 3½ years in prison for aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon.

Fais said Clarett, 26, had met terms of his original sentencing when he pleaded guilty in September 2006 and permitted the move to Maryhaven, a community-based correction facility.

"He's very grateful he's been released," said his attorney, Michael Hoague. "Still, he's incarcerated, so it's a blend of emotions."

Officials at the facility will evaluate Clarett's employment, education and family considerations. He will be there at least 4 months but no more than 6 months before being released, pending good behavior, Fais said.

Clarett said he also had realized that he wants to become a good father to his daughter, who lives in Youngstown, Ohio, with her mother.

His mother, Michelle Clarett, sat a few feet away from her son, along with other family members and friends.

Upon leaving the courtroom she said she was "still digesting" the decision but added that she was pleased it was another step toward her son's release.

Prosecutors did not argue against Clarett's move to the facility.

"He did have a good prison record," Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said Tuesday night.

Hoague said Maryhaven was a step between a county jail and a prison, with dormitory-style living and numerous programs to prepare inmates for the outside world. He said during the latter stages of a person's confinement, they can be released to go to work each day.

Hoague said Clarett had taken classes on geriatrics and gerontology while in prison and hoped to work with older adults.

Fais asked him what he had learned about himself during his time behind bars and Clarett said he had discovered that he lacked character when he was younger.

Clarett pleaded guilty in September 2006 to having a gun hidden in his SUV and holding up two people outside a Columbus bar in a separate case. He was sentenced to 7½ years in prison with possible release in 3½ years.

Clarett was a standout running back from Warren, Ohio, who was selected as a national player of the year by one publication.

He never played another college game after scoring the winning touchdown in Ohio State's 31-24 double-overtime win over Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes' first national title since 1968.

He was declared ineligible after that season for receiving extra benefits that were brought to light after he filed a false theft report about a car break-in.

While he was ineligible, Clarett sued the NFL in September 2003 to be permitted to enter the league's draft. The NFL requires all athletes to be out of high school for at least three years before entering the draft. After an initial court victory, Clarett lost after the NFL appealed.

When it finally came time for him to be drafted under NFL rules, the Denver Broncos surprised many by selecting him in the third round of the 2005 draft. But they cut him before the season even started.

Clarett was charged with aggravated robbery on Jan. 1, 2006, after police said he flashed a gun at people outside a bar and robbed them of a cell phone. Before his trial on those charges, Clarett was arrested on Aug. 9, 2006, after police chased him when they said he failed to stop him for a traffic violation.

Clarett has been taking college-credit courses in the Toledo prison, where he was confined to a single cell but was not isolated from other inmates. He was able to exercise and eat with other inmates.