Clarett claims he received death threat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 29, 2006

COLUMBUS — A postcard with a taped-on, typewritten message threatening ex-Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett was sent to a law office representing him in two criminal cases, his attorney said Tuesday.

Michael Hoague, one of Clarett’s attorneys, talked about the message in a phone interview just before a judge handling robbery charges against Clarett said he likely will prohibit Clarett and his attorneys from talking to the media.

Hoague did not say what the threat received Monday entailed, but said it was sent from Los Angeles. Clarett, who was arrested last week after he was caught with four loaded guns following a police chase, has received threats before, Hoague said.

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‘‘We don’t know quite what to make of it,’’ Hoague said of the threat, which was typed on a sheet of paper, cut out and then put on the postcard. ‘‘It’s very cryptic.’’

Clarett, who scored the winning touchdown for the Buckeyes in the 2002 national championship game, is jailed without bond and met with a psychologist Monday as part of a mental health evaluation ordered by the Judge David Fais.

‘‘He’s been in very good spirits,’’ Hoague said. ‘‘He’s basically sitting in his cell, doing sit-ups and push-ups and reading the Bible, all day long.’’

During a 10-minute court appearance Tuesday, Clarett, wearing standard-issue jail clothing, was permitted to enter the courtroom without handcuffs. He made a brief reply to a question from Fais and at the end of the hearing, he turned and raised his hand to greet his mother and girlfriend who were sitting a few feet behind the defense table.

His mother, Michelle Clarett, declined to comment.

Fais said a gag order likely will be necessary because of the national media coverage of Clarett since his arrest after the chase. The judge said he will issue his decision in the next few days.

‘‘This case will be tried in the courtroom and not in some newspaper or radio station or TV station or in some national publication,’’ Fais said.

Clarett had been set for trial Monday on charges accusing him of robbing two people of a cell phone outside a bar early on New Year’s Day. The judge delayed the trial and ordered a mental evaluation over the objections of Clarett and his attorneys following his arrest Aug. 9 on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.

Clarett’s latest trouble began when police noticed a vehicle driving erratically, beginning a highway chase that ended with police spiking the SUV’s tires. Officers said they had to use pepper spray to subdue him because he was wearing a bulletproof vest that thwarted their stun guns.

Clarett’s bail was revoked and he remains in the Franklin County jail.

The judge hastily summoned Clarett and attorneys from both sides to his courtroom Tuesday afternoon after the sheriff’s office notified Fais that Clarett was to be visited by a reporter. Fais said he was troubled by recent news stories and said he didn’t want Clarett’s trial to be affected by media reports.

During the hearing, Clarett’s attorneys withdrew the request for their client to meet with the reporter.

‘‘We had talked to him before the hearing,’’ said another Clarett attorney, Tim Mango. ‘‘He totally understands. Our focus is totally on preparing for the trial.’’

Mango said Clarett’s case had ‘‘absolutely’’ been damaged by statements made by prosecutors.

Assistant Prosecutor Doug Stead requested the gag order, accusing defense attorneys of talking to reporters too much.