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Prosecutor opposes giving Clarett early release from prison

COLUMBUS — An Ohio prosecutor is opposing former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett’s request for early release from prison to pursue an NFL career.

Clarett says the sooner he can be released, the sooner he can make a comeback, possibly in the NFL. He says he’s heard from teams while he’s been in prison.

But first, Clarett must overcome the objections of Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who says the former Buckeyes standout hasn’t made a strong case to be released so early in his prison term.

Last week O’Brien asked Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio Parole Board to reject Clarett’s April request for an early release.

Clarett was sentenced in September 2006 to serve at least 3 1/2 years for a holdup outside a Columbus bar and a separate highway chase earlier that year that ended with police finding loaded guns in his SUV.

That means Clarett could be out as early as March, although he would still have to spend six months in a halfway house, according to O’Brien’s letter to Strickland.

Clarett asked the parole board for a pardon, reprieve or commutation of his sentence.

Clarett’s attorney, Percy Squire, says his client has an opportunity to play NFL, arena or Canadian professional football if he’s released within the next few months. NFL teams have contacted Clarett in prison, but Squire wouldn’t identify which teams.

Squire said that while March doesn’t seem that far off, time is crucial for the 25-year-old Clarett.

“Whether he is permitted to go in the summer of 2009 versus the summer of 2010 can make a huge difference,” Squire said.

“We’re talking a matter of months here, but it could have a huge impact on his ability to pursue a livelihood. Waiting another year could basically eliminate any opportunity for him to ever play.”