Sunday, October 12, 2003

Clarett's attorney: Court should protect tailback

By Carrie Spencer
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Maurice Clarett's attorney said the misdemeanor criminal case against the suspended Ohio State running back prompted him to ask a federal judge block the use of information from the university.

Now the 19-year-old player is fending off misdemeanor charge in a local court while he has three separate civil actions pending in two states.

Clarett asked a U.S. District judge Friday to find Ohio State in contempt, filing a complaint accusing the university of releasing his "protected educational records" in violation of a 2000 court order.

That request doesn't interfere with an earlier case in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, Clarett's Columbus attorney, Percy Squire, said Saturday.

But a university attorney called the federal action "procedurally irregular" and "misguided," because the school hasn't had time to respond to last month's county complaint seeking information to help determine if Clarett should sue.

The federal complaint seeks a fine against Ohio State of at least $2.5 million - payable to Clarett - and a court order preventing city prosecutors from using the private information as evidence against Clarett, who's charged with filing a false police report.

"One of the products of releasing this information inappropriately is that information is going to be used in a criminal prosecution against him," Squire said. "If that information goes in, he's irreparably harmed.

"Whether that merits a fine of $2.5 million remains to be seen. It may be worth greater than that, given what this young man's potential is."

The complaint seeks to add Clarett as an injured party in a 1998 privacy lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Education against Ohio State, Miami of Ohio and other schools.

"The Ohio State University has vigorously protected the educational records of this student-athlete and his Sept. 18 discovery lawsuit has generated no information that would lead Mr. Clarett to believe that Ohio State violated his privacy," university attorney Virginia Trethewey said in a statement released Saturday.

Clarett is accused of filing an exaggerated theft report with campus police in April after a dealership's car he was borrowing was broken into. Clarett has pleaded innocent to one count of falsification, a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Squire said Clarett didn't prepare the police report.

Clarett is suspended for his sophomore season for accepting money from a family friend and lying about it to investigators. He is separately suing the NFL, asking a federal judge in New York to throw out a rule that prevents him from entering the draft until he has been out of high school for three years.

Squire said none of the legal matters means Clarett doesn't want to play for Ohio State again.

"There's nothing that would make us happier than to see him out there playing," Squire said. "We can't permit him just to be abused and violated simply because he fundamentally wants to go out and play football."

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