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Clarett found capable for trial



Published: Sat, September 9, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



He will go on trial Sept. 18 on charges that he held up two people outside a bar.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- A mental health evaluation of Maurice Clarett found that he is competent to stand trial on charges he held up two people outside a bar, his attorney said Friday.

A judge had ordered Clarett to be examined following his arrest Aug. 9 after a highway chase and struggle with police, who found four loaded guns in his sport utility vehicle.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Fais said at a hearing in Clarett's robbery case that the findings of the psychological evaluation will not be released until presented at trial.

"It was a determination of competency," Michael Hoague, one of Clarett's attorneys, said after Friday's brief hearing.

Trial will begin Sept. 18

Fais asked Clarett during the proceeding if he understood that his trial would begin Sept. 18.

"Yes, sir," said Clarett, sporting a beard and wearing brown jail clothing. Clarett's mother sat in the courtroom, holding his newborn daughter in her lap. His girlfriend, who gave birth to the child this summer, also attended the hearing.

Clarett, 22, is accused of robbing two people of a cell phone outside a Columbus bar Jan. 1. He has pleaded not guilty.

He was arrested in August after authorities said he tried to flee a police officer, who noticed Clarett's SUV being driven erratically. Police spiked the tires and used pepper spray to subdue and handcuff Clarett, who was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Prosecutors said Clarett was driving a few blocks from the home of a woman expected to testify against him in the robbery trial.

Charges against him

Clarett was charged with carrying a concealed weapon in the police altercation, and a grand jury indicted him Thursday on additional charges, including two counts of failure to comply with an order from a police officer and improper handling of a firearm.

Clarett's attorneys, who had objected to the mental health evaluation, downplayed the significance of the findings.

"I've always felt he was competent," attorney Nick Mango said. Clarett, who remains in jail, is clear minded as he focuses on trial preparations, Mango said.

The judge also agreed to let potential jurors answer a questionnaire about their knowledge of the case and the media coverage surrounding Clarett.

Last week, Clarett's attorneys asked the court to pay for a public opinion poll to determine if an impartial jury could be seated for the robbery trial in the county where he once starred on the field. But Fais denied the request Wednesday.




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