Clarett hires new lawyers as trial approaches

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Former Ohio State running back Maurice
Clarett has hired two new attorneys to represent him in his trial
on burglary and weapons charges.

Clarett fired attorneys William Settina and Robert Krapenc a
week ago, notifying them in a single-paragraph letter.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David S. Fais held a hearing
Thursday morning to address Clarett's defense. Bailiff Tim Jackson
said court papers showed Nick L. Mango and Michael C. Hoague were
hired to represent Clarett.

The 22-year-old Clarett is charged with two counts of aggravated
robbery, four counts of robbery and one count of carrying a
concealed weapon. Authorities said he was identified by witnesses
as the person who flashed a gun and robbed two people in an alley
behind the Opium Lounge in the early hours of Jan. 1.

"We both feel very strongly that Maurice Clarett is innocent,"
Hoague said. "There seems to be a rush to judgment in the court of
public opinion. This is a sort of kick him while he's down

Clarett, free on a recognizance bond, has an Aug. 14 trial date.

"I'm very confident. I'm just looking forward to my day in
court," he said as he left the hearing.

Settina and Krapenc filed a motion Monday saying they did not
wish to continue as Clarett's lawyers, charging he has not paid
their fees and has not cooperated in his own defense.

But Hoague said Clarett fired the two because he believed very
little work had been done on his defense. Clarett's new defense
team will focus on the background of his accusers, including the
owner of the Opium Lounge, Hoague said.

Clarett scored the winning touchdown in the second overtime to
lead Ohio State to the 2002 national championship, the school's
first since 1968. But that was the last game the freshman played
for Ohio State. He sat out the 2003 season after being charged with
misdemeanor falsification on a police report, then dropped out of
school. He sued to be included in the 2004 NFL draft and lost in

A surprise third-round pick in the 2005 draft, he was cut by the
Denver Broncos during the preseason.

Clarett plans to play for the Mahoning Valley Hitmen, one of
five teams in the Eastern Indoor Football League. The team, based
in Clarett's hometown of Youngstown, begins play in January 2007.

Hitmen coach Jim Terry said Thursday that Clarett has not signed
a contract with the team yet, pending a fire marshal's inspection
of the team's home field. Clarett's proposed contract includes
attendance incentives which cannot be finalized until the fire
marshal determines the capacity of the team's arena.

The Hitmen's Web site features mug shots of prominent organized
crime figures and a gun sounds whenever a page is opened.

The team's motto is "Get Whacked Indoors."