The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

May 4, 2012

10-plus years prison term for ex-NFL, Ohio St QB

COLUMBUS — The painful saga of ex-Ohio State and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Art Schlichter came to a close Friday when a federal judge sentenced him to nearly 11 years in prison for scamming participants in what authorities called a million-dollar sports ticket scheme.

Schlichter, 52, had been down this road before, spending time in prison in Indiana related to his gambling addiction, which he claimed to have overcome. But he continued to struggle, by his own admission, and his stumbles included testing positive for cocaine use while on house arrest following his guilty plea in the ticket case.

The 127-month sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson in Columbus reflects both punishment for the ticket scheme and time for violating probation from Schlichter’s 1997 forgery and theft conviction in Indiana.

Schlichter’s original plea deal last year in federal court called for him to serve eight years in prison, to run at the same time as a 10-year state prison sentence on related charges.

But Marion Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins in Indianapolis refused to cancel Schlichter’s arrest warrant in Indiana until the extra time was added.

The new deal, which Schlichter agreed to in the fall, increased the federal time by 27 months. Watson signed off on the deal Friday before sentencing Schlichter.

Watson opened the hearing by telling Schlichter he was the perfect candidate for receiving maximum consecutive sentences, and then proceeded to detail over several minutes all of Schlichter’s past convictions and sentences. He called Schlichter’s criminal history shameful and predatory.

Assuming Schlichter earns federal good-time behavior credit, he’ll serve just over nine years in federal prison, compared with just over seven under the original deal.

He’ll still have a few months left on his state prison term at that point, although he’ll also receive credit for jail time since his February arrest.

When Schlichter’s turn came to speak, Watson forced him to turn around and address victims of the scam, as well as his mother, Mila Schlichter. He apologized tearfully.

State and federal authorities say Schlichter, whose NFL career was derailed by a gambling addiction, promised college and NFL game tickets, including the Super Bowl, but never delivered despite receiving thousands of dollars in payments.

“Schlichter did not have connections through which he could get tickets at unusually low prices, and he did not use the money that people gave to him to buy tickets or to invest in a ticket-resale business for either purpose,” federal prosecutors said in a statement. “Schlichter instead spent the money on personal expenses, gambled with it, or used it to repay older debts.”

Schlichter’s road to Friday’s sentencing was as bumpy as his playing career.

After pleading guilty in the fall, Schlichter stayed free on house arrest pending sentencing and was allowed to attend weekly counseling.

But in January, Schlichter was arrested after twice testing positive for cocaine and by refusing several times to provide urine samples. Watson postponed his sentencing and gave Schlichter more time to have his mental health assessed.

Schlichter has asked for prison drug abuse counseling once he’s sentenced.

Last month, Schlichter signed paperwork allowing his brain and spinal cord to be donated for Boston University for research on traumatic injuries, his federal public attorney, Steve Nolder, told the court.

Doctors have diagnosed several brain impairments that Schlichter suffered from 14 or 15 concussions in high school and college, Nolder said. Research is increasingly indicating that such injuries could explain Schlichter’s impulsive behavior, flawed judgment and continual misbehavior, Nolder said.

One of Schlichter’s victims in the ticket scheme was the widow of a former Wendy’s Co. president, whose attorney said last year she had been ruined by Schlichter. Anita Barney’s homes are being foreclosed and her only income is from Social Security, attorney William Loveland said.

Schlichter has said he is ashamed of his addiction.

A federal bankruptcy filing by Barney last month listed a $2.3 million claim against Schlichter for fraud, embezzlement, theft and restitution.

Schlichter played at Ohio State between 1978 and 1981 and in the NFL for the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills. His later went to prison for gambling-related crimes.

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