Former Edison High School football standout Cliff Harris was back in a Fresno courtroom Thursday, wearing shackles and pleading not guilty to arson charges.
Fresno police arrested Harris, who also played football at the University of Oregon before being kicked off the team, on April 9. A criminal complaint filed in Fresno County Superior Court accuses him of setting a piece of property on fire in the 100 block of Kearney Boulevard on Dec. 7 and for torching an inhabited dwelling on the 1700 block of B Street on April 7. Both properties are in southwest Fresno.
Harris, 26, wore a red jail jumpsuit for Thursday’s hearing. His mother was in court to support him.
Complaint accuses Cliff Harris of setting a piece of property on fire in the 100 block of Kearney Boulevard on Dec. 7 and for torching an inhabited dwelling on the 1700 block of B Street on April 7.
After Harris entered his plea, Judge Don Penner ordered him to remain in jail in lieu of posting $220,000 bail.
Harris was an All-America cornerback for Oregon in 2010. He was suspended from the team before the start of the 2011 season after being caught driving 118 mph by an Oregon state trooper, who said he smelled marijuana in the car. Harris’ reply: “We smoked it all.” He was dismissed from the team in December that year.
He later signed a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was cut from the team. He also was cut by the New York Jets following an arrest for marijuana possession in New Jersey.
Fresno County court records say Harris has a half-dozen traffic tickets since 2009 for offenses such as speeding, running a stop sign, driving without a license, lane straddling and driving at night without lights. His criminal record includes five misdemeanor cases and three felony cases.
In November last year, he was arrested on drug charges at a party in Clovis, police reported. The arrest happened Nov. 12 in the 1200 block of Shaw Avenue, where officers responded to a disturbance. Harris was booked into Fresno County Jail on charges of theft, possession of a controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia and revocation of post-release community supervision. In February this year, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor petty theft; the drug charges were dismissed, court records say. He was sentenced to three years of probation and given credit for the time he served in jail.
Harris was an All-America cornerback for the University of Oregon in 2010.
Court records say Harris also was arrested in April last year on a felony charge of theft. On Aug. 9, he pleaded no contest to the felony charge and was later sentenced to a year in jail. Because of time served, he was supposed to be released on Oct. 19 but was released nine days earlier because of jail overcrowding, court records say.
In December 2015, Harris was sentenced to a year in jail and three years of probation for starting an arson fire that burned a tiny patch of a grassy street median in Fresno. At the sentencing, Harris’ court-appointed attorney said a psychiatrist who examined Harris said he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that afflicts people who have suffered repeated concussions, such as athletes in contact sports.
Because of time already served in jail, Harris was released from jail and sentenced to probation. Under terms of his probation, Harris was ordered to stay away from drugs and alcohol and any incendiary device, court records say. The judge also ordered Harris to attend a drug treatment program and get mental health counseling as directed by his probation officer.
Harris’ next court hearing in April 18.