Trial of Former Ohio Mr. Football Begins in Stark County

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A trial of a former northeast Ohio high school football star accused of aggravated burglary and other crimes got underway on Monday in a Stark County Common Pleas court.

Erick Howard, a former North Canton Hoover standout running back, has been charged with a series of counts related to an August 20, 2011 Sunford Avenue SE apartment robbery.

Howard is accused of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, rape and kidnapping.

On Monday Howard’s trial got underway with jury selection.

The bailiff for Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn L. Heath tells Fox 8 News that 76 jurors were included in the potential juror pool.

Howard’s defense team and prosecutors did not agree on a 12-person jury on Monday, and jury selection will continue on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

Last week Howard rejected a plea deal from Stark County prosecutors, according to his attorney Rufus Sims.

Sims told Fox 8 News that a plea deal of 12-years in prison was offered by prosecutors at a final preliminary hearing.

“12-years isn’t something he is interested in,” said Sims.

When asked what charges Howard would have been pleading guilty to had he accepted the deal Sims replied, “It never got that far. We rejected the deal and are going to defend [Howard] against the charges next week.”

Prosecutors allege Howard was one of three men who took part in the home invasion and armed robbery.

Prosecutors say a couple was in their bedroom when two men wearing ski masks burst through their door. They were duct taped and threatened at gunpoint to give the thieves money.

North Canton Police Chief Stephan Wilder told Fox 8 News in October that Howard is believed to have been one of the two masked gunmen in the apartment.

The other, Seth Obermiller, 20, of North Canton, has already pled guilty to charges of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery and is serving a seven-year prison sentence.

A third man, Michael Taylor, 20, who drove the get-away vehicle, pled guilty to an attempted burglary charge and has been placed on probation.

As a running back at North Canton Hoover High School, Howard became only the second person to be twice named “Mr. Football” in the state. Howard was giving the Associated Press award in 2008 and 2009.