Art Schlichter is a textbook example of how thoroughly compulsive gambling can ruin a man’s life. Schlichter was an extraordinarily talented quarterback at OSU in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In January of 1982, the Baltimore Colts made him the fifth player picked in the NFL Draft. It was all downhill from there. Schlichter signed a contract that gave him a half-million-dollar signing bonus. He gambled it away in a few months and was half a million dollars in debt to bookies. (Schlichter was dumb lucky in the people he selected to gamble with. When he was late on his payments, they threatened to inform the NFL. Had he been dealing with “wise guys,” he would have had good cause to fear for his life.)
He turned in his bookie and was suspended from the NFL for a year. That should have been enough to wise up anyone. For Art Schlichter, it was the beginning. He gambled again and again and was banned from the NFL. He has never been reinstated. He went to prison for concocting a fraudulent investing scheme to pay his debts. While inside, he hooked up with a doctor, and together they hatched another scheme. When they were released, the doctor would pose as a specialist in the treatment of compulsive gambling. So good was the doctor that he even cured the infamous Art Schlichter. And they would then ask for millions of dollars in startup funds. They were back in prison very quickly.
In the twenty years after he left Ohio State, Schlichter was convicted of felonies six different times, spending time in prisons in several different states. He did manage to remain free long enough to have a short stint as a disc jockey in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas? What’s wrong with this picture?) He was also married and fathered two children.
The Schlicters are now divorced and if I ever meet Mrs. Schlicter, I would love to ask her what she was thinking.
When I was in Alaska, I read a story about Schlicter going back to prison again, and the article mentioned the name of Schlichter’s public defender. I tried to call her in Indianapolis. I learned that she was no longer in the office. I did a bit more checking, putting in a call to the Indiana Supreme Court. Upon reaching her, we had an interesting conversation. What follows should be an object lesson in the dangers of representing a complete sociopath.
The young woman, quite understandably, did not tell me the whole story, but this is what I managed to piece together. At one point, Schlichter tearfully begged her to bring him a cell phone so he could call his kids, whom he missed terribly. A few days later, one of Schlichter’s friends brought her a cell phone. Against her better judgment, she brought him a phone in the full knowledge that it was a clear violation of jail regulations.
Shortly thereafter, Schlichter again begged her to bring him a cell phone, as that one had been confiscated. After all, what man doesn’t want to speak with his children. Once again, Art’s mysterious friend brought another cell phone. If she had a shred of sense, she would have thrown it in the dumpster. Instead, she tried to bring it to her client. She was caught in the act.
For this transgression, she had to resign her job and received a six-month suspension from the Indiana Supreme Court. Art, of course, had been using the phone to place bets. When I asked the ex-public defender what she had been thinking, she could only reply, “He’s very convincing.”
Around 2005, Schlichter was released from prison. To my amazement, he has managed to stay out of prison and is a color commentator on a radio show. If anyone who reads this happens to see Art Schlichter, you have been warned. Remember, it’s “No, Art, I will not float you a loan.” “No, Art, I don’t want to buy any cheap tickets.”
I think of Schlichter every time I visit the Franklin County Jail. Whenever the guards ask me if I have any cell phones, I want to ask, “Do I look like Art Schlicter’s chump?”
If I ever meet Art Schlichter’s ex-wife Mitzi, I will have to ask her what she was thinking. In the first place, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a woman to marry an ex-convict. Second, I later learned that, on the way back from their honeymoon, Art announced that they were going to have to sell all of their wedding gifts to cover his gambling debts. For some reason, Mitzi stayed with Art for nine-and-a-half years. The thought of what Art’s repeated trips to prison put his daughters through makes me shudder.