Clarett drops lawsuit against Ohio State

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2003

COLUMBUS - Suspended running back Maurice Clarett has dropped a federal complaint seeking a $2.5 million fine against Ohio State for releasing information from an NCAA investigation to prosecutors.

Clarett's Columbus attorney says he wants to renew the complaint if he can get backing from the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that Clarett accuses the school of violating.

''We intend to bring it again,'' Percy Squire said Tuesday. ''We want to bring it as a joint action.''

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In a court motion filed Monday, Clarett said he still is asking the Education Department to sanction Ohio State. Clarett asked to dismiss his court action - reserving the right to file it again - because he was asked to provide more information to the Education Department.

U.S. District Judge George Smith granted the dismissal but chided Clarett because both cases could legally proceed in tandem.

''If it was Mr. Clarett's intention to pursue relief only from the Department of Education, then he should not have sought to intervene in this lawsuit in the first instance,'' Smith wrote.

''OSU has presumably expended resources responding to the motion to intervene, and it seems unfair at the eleventh hour to allow Mr. Clarett to dodge a potential adverse result in this lawsuit and on a whim shift the focus of this matter to another forum.''

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he did not know the complaint was dropped. He and a university spokeswoman declined to comment.

Clarett's Columbus attorney, Percy Squire, had filed motions in municipal and federal court seeking to prevent a tape-recorded interview from an NCAA investigation from being used by city prosecutors. Clarett is charged with filing a false police report with campus police in April after a dealership's car he was borrowing was broken into.

Smith said that if he had allowed the case to go forward, he would not have ordered a state court to ban evidence in a criminal trial.

Clarett, 20, has pleaded innocent to one count of falsification, a misdemeanor with a penalty ranging from probation to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.

The federal complaint sought to add Clarett as a party to a closed Education Department lawsuit against several Ohio universities and to find Ohio State in contempt of a 2000 court order in the case banning release of protected educational records. The complaint asked the court to fine the university at least $2.5 million, payable to Clarett.

Ohio State had argued that previous court rulings prevent individuals from suing schools under the privacy law. Squire said he wanted to avoid that academic question by having the Education Department join him in seeking the contempt ruling.

''We expected the agency to have acted by now,'' Squire said.

The department last week sent a letter to Squire saying his Oct. 16 complaint to the agency did not provide enough information to show Clarett's privacy was violated.

''You do not specify what education record was disclosed … how it was disclosed, who disclosed it, to whom it was disclosed, and when,'' wrote LeRoy Rooker, director of the family policy compliance office.

The department cannot comment on pending complaints, spokesman Jim Bradshaw said. The highest penalty the department can enact is cutting off federal education funds to a school. Most privacy cases are handled through settlements.

Clarett is suspended for his sophomore season with the defending national champion Buckeyes for NCAA violations of 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.