Clarett files federal suit over March traffic stop

ex-osu star says task force violated the 14th amendment

By Peter H. Milliken


Maurice Clarett has sued the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and its agents in federal court, alleging the task force violated his due-process rights while making a traffic stop.

In the suit, filed Thursday by Atty. Percy Squire of Columbus, Clarett, 27, a member of the United Football League’s Omaha Nighthawks and former standout at Warren G. Harding High School and Ohio State University, alleges the agents stopped the vehicle he was driving without a warrant for him and without probable cause, unlawfully detained him, unlawfully searched him and the vehicle, and unlawfully confiscated about $30,000 from him.

Such actions, the suit says, is a violation of the 14th Amendment. Squire is a Youngstown native.

Clarett, now living in Dublin, a Columbus suburb, said he wasn’t charged with any crime in the March 3 traffic stop.

The lawsuit, assigned to U.S. District Judge Benita Y. Pearson in Youngstown, seeks an injunction ordering the task force to return the cash to him, plus unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.

“Defendants’ acts were motivated by bad faith, inasmuch as defendants have abrogated unto themselves the unfettered authority to confiscate property from young black males without cause or justification,” the suit says.

Detective Sgt. Jeff Solic, task-force commander, declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.

Clarett spent more than three years in prison for having a hidden gun and holding up two people outside a Columbus bar in 2006 and a separate highway chase earlier that year that ended with police finding loaded guns in his SUV. He signed a one-year deal with the Nighthawks last August.

On the same day in Canfield, the agents arrested Clarett’s brother, Michael, 30, of Ravenwood Avenue, Youngstown, on a warrant.

Michael Clarett had been secretly indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury that day on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and four counts of heroin trafficking.

The task force alleged Michael Clarett engaged in drug trafficking in Canfield between Jan. 19 and Feb. 22 this year and seeks forfeiture of two cars allegedly used for heroin sales.

That case is before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, who is to conduct a pretrial hearing at 8:30 a.m. June 2. A jury trial is set to begin June 6.

Michael Clarett’s lawyer, J. Gerald Ingram, posted a $15,085 cash bond to free him from jail.

Michael Clarett also was arrested in Alliance around the same time on marijuana-trafficking charges.

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