Former Ohio State football standout Maurice Clarett will serve at least 3-1/2 years in prison as a result of a plea agreement reached Monday just prior to the start of his trial on robbery charges in a Franklin County courtroom.
Clarett, 22, agreed to plead guilty to charges of aggravated robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. The deal ends the two outstanding criminal cases against the former OSU running back.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David Fais announced the agreement prior to the start of Clarett’s trial on the robbery charge. That count stemmed from his involvement in a Jan. 1 incident outside a downtown Columbus bar, where Clarett allegedly flashed a gun and robbed a couple of their cell phone.
While out on bond and awaiting trial on that charge in August, Clarett became involved in a high speed chase with police officers on Columbus’ east side. Police had to use spikes to stop Clarett’s car, where they found four loaded guns. The officers had to use pepper spray to subdue Clarett, who was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Clarett told the court he understood he was pleading guilty and reversing his earlier innocent plea.
“I'd like to apologize for my behavior and I accept the time that is given to me,” he said.
The plea deal calls for Clarett to actually be sentenced to 7-1/2 years in prison with release possible after 3-1/2 years. Prosecutors and the judge will have to agree to such release. Once released, Clarett would face five years probation as well.
After the police chase, Clarett was charged with two counts of failure to comply with an order from a police officer and improper handling of a firearm, in addition to the concealed-weapon charge.
In his only season at Ohio State, Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and helped the Buckeyes win the 2002 national championship. He was suspended from the team prior to the 2003 season for taking illegal extra benefits from a booster. He then sued the National Football League and won a lower court ruling that allowed him to enter the 2004 NFL draft. But an appeals court reversed that ruling, forcing Clarett to wait until 2005 to enter the draft.
During this period, Clarett was the focus of a number of media stories – including those written by The New York Times and ESPN The Magazine. In those articles, Clarett and others made accusations regarding academic fraud at Ohio State as well as illegal extra benefits provided to players from OSU boosters.
However, none of those allegations were ever proven and Clarett later tried to distance himself from those reports.
Clarett was taken in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Denver Broncos. But clashes with teammates and coaches led the team to cut Clarett before training camp ended that year.