Storm Klein pleads guilty to reduced charge in hopes of quick return to Ohio State

By Matt Hinton | Blogger

In the last installment of our ongoing legal thriller, Citizen Klein, an attorney for former Ohio State linebacker Storm Klein predicted his client would be exonerated of the misdemeanor domestic violence and assault charges that led to his dismissal from the team in July, and possibly reinstated. Today, Klein took a significant step toward that goal by pleading guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, one he hopes will pave the way for his return to the Buckeye roster.

As part of the guilty plea, Klein agreed to serve 18 months of probation and pay court costs, even as attorney Larry James continued to proclaim his client's innocence. In fact, the plea was a result of timing: Earlier this week, Klein's trial – originally scheduled for Monday – was pushed back to Sept. 24, which would have forced him to miss Ohio State's first four games and a month of classes before his case could be resolved.

In the meantime, Wednesday marked the first day of classes for OSU's fall semester. Klein is reportedly enrolled in classes beginning later this week, but without his football scholarship he cannot afford the tuition. By accepting lesser charges, he hopes to coax a quick decision from coach Urban Meyer within the next few days.

In a statement following Klein's arrest, Meyer said the original charges "violate the core values of the Ohio State Football Program," and "it has been made very clear that this type of charge will result in dismissal." In the same statement, however, he also said he will "re-evaluate" Klein's status if those charges are dropped or reduced. After today's hearing, James told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that he spoke to Meyer earlier this week, and has already sent a note to the football offices to inform the coach that Klein's legal status had changed. A team spokesman confirmed that there will be a "re-assessment" of Klein's status, but didn't offer a time table.

"[Meyer] said, 'Let me know when you have something. I'm not giving you a commitment, but I'll definitely look at it,'" James told the Columbus Dispatch. "It doesn't look like [the reduced charge] is a core-values violation for the coach or the university."

That will be for the coach and the university to decide. According to a July 7 report filed by Columbus police, Klein "violently and purposefully" grabbed an ex-girlfriend – the mother of his child – by the arms and threw her against his apartment door during an argument, resulting in an abrasion and swelling on her forehead and abrasions on both forearms. Klein has denied those allegations, and James said that the reduced charge was based in part on the alleged victim recanting her statement that Klein had ever struck or physically harmed her. "Every fact pattern we looked at and every document supports that position," James said.

Last month, James told a local television station, "I am pleased that the door remains open to return to the team and I believe it will work out in Storm's favor." Elsewhere, he was more emphatic: "I believe when this is said and done, this will be resolved in Storm's favor, with an exclamation mark."

James may be familiar to Buckeye fans and other interested readers from his entertaining turn last summer in defense of another exiled starter, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, on whose behalf James threatened to sue ESPN over an especially damaging report and compared NCAA rules against compensating athletes to slavery. (James also claimed, contrary to all available evidence and Ohio State's own admission, that he was unaware of any NCAA violations committed by Pryor "over the last couple of years that we have uncovered.") Shockingly, Pryor was not exonerated or reinstated, and has not pursued any sort of legal action.

Klein, a senior, started 10 games last year at middle linebacker, finishing ninth on the team with 45 total tackles, but appeared to lose ground this spring under the new coaching staff; on the initial post-spring depth chart, he was listed as a backup at the Mike position behind touted sophomore Curtis Grant.

In June, Meyer suspended another pair of veterans, senior tight end Jake Stoneburner and junior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, and temporarily removed both from their scholarships after they allegedly ran from police when spotted urinating outside a local restaurant. Both were charged with obstructing official business, a misdemeanor, and were both welcomed back to preseason practice in good standing earlier this month.

 
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