Darren Sharper drug, sexual assault case moves to Louisiana

Published 3:08 pm Saturday, April 4, 2015

NEW ORLEANS — Once a football hero celebrated in New Orleans for his role in the Saints’ Super Bowl season, Darren Sharper is returning to the city in disgrace to complete plea deals on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted women.

He has resolved similar charges with pleas in Las Vegas and Arizona and a no-contest plea in Los Angeles under a multi-jurisdictional plea deal announced last month.

His first appearance on federal charges in New Orleans is set for Monday afternoon. A Tuesday hearing is set in state court.

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However, it is unclear whether he will enter his final pleas on those days. Monday’s appearance is before a magistrate judge who cannot accept a guilty plea, although an appearance before a district judge could be set later in the day.

Locked up since early last year, he will serve at least another nine years in prison. Convictions at trial could have meant life in prison.

Sharper, 39, was a safety who had nine interceptions during the Saints’ 2009 season, which ended with a Super Bowl victory in February 2010. He retired after the 2010 season and was working as an analyst for the NFL Network before being fired after the rape allegations surfaced.

He was arrested on suspicion of rape in Los Angeles in January of 2014. Formal charges were filed the following month there, followed by charges in the other states, culminating in December with state and federal grand jury charges in New Orleans.

The two Louisiana state counts of aggravated rape stemmed from accusations that he sexually assaulted two drug-impaired women at his apartment in September 2013.

The federal indictment charged Sharper and another man with distributing the drugs alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem — more commonly known by the brand names Xanax, Valium and Ambien, respectively — with the intent to commit rape.

On March 20, attorneys announced plans for resolution of the charges in all four states. Sharper, who has been jailed since early 2014, pleaded no-contest in Los Angeles to raping two women he drugged after meeting them in a West Hollywood bar. He will face 20 years in the California case when he’s sentenced July 15. The California no-contest pleas have the same effect as a conviction, and state sentencing rules will have him serve about nine years.

Sharper pleaded guilty March 24 to a reduced felony attempted sex assault charge in Las Vegas. Sentencing is scheduled June 25. Sharper appeared by Internet video hookup from a courtroom in Los Angeles to a courtroom in Las Vegas. The plea agreement calls for Sharper to serve 38 months to eight years in prison for the Nevada conviction, but at the same time as sentences from California, Arizona and Louisiana.

In Arizona, Sharper was quickly sentenced to nine years in prison for his guilty pleas last month to sexually assaulting one woman and trying to sexually assault another woman in November 2013 at a Tempe apartment after a night of drinking at bars.

During Sharper’s sentencing in Phoenix, Superior Court Judge Warren Granville said Arizona agreed to give the federal government primary jurisdiction over Sharper. He also said Sharper will serve his sentence in federal custody, and that the Louisiana case will be resolved through a federal court.

His pleas won’t end the case in Louisiana. The state charges also involve two co-defendants, Erik Nunez and Brandon Licciardi. Licciardi also is a co-defendant in the federal case. Nunez and Licciardi have pleaded not guilty.

Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times during a career that included stints with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and the 2010 game Saints victory.