A federal judge has pushed the trial date back to July for two former friends of retired Saints safety Darren Sharper who are accused of a conspiracy to drug and rape women.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo on Tuesday dropped a May 12 trial date for former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi and former steakhouse waiter Erik Nunez, resetting the two-week trial to start July 11.
The delay comes after prosecutors with U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office secured a new indictment against the pair last week. The new document adds details to the allegations that each man joined with Sharper in a conspiracy to ply women with the illicit party drug Ecstasy, along with Valium, Xanax and Ambien, in order to debilitate and then sexually assault them.
Licciardi, 31, is named in five of the six counts in the new indictment. Nunez, 28, is named in three counts.
Both face an overarching conspiracy charge that includes 17 “overt acts” in which “unsuspecting women were ‘molly-whopped’ for the purpose of having sex.” The term “molly-whop” refers to placing Ecstasy in the women’s drinks.
The indictment is the fourth filed by federal prosecutors in the case since December 2014. Attorneys for Licciardi and Nunez have repeatedly challenged the federal prosecution, arguing the charges too closely mirrored pending state charges against the two men and didn’t jibe with the acts they allegedly committed.
The new indictment accuses Licciardi, a former 10-year deputy, of surreptitiously drugging seven women over 21 months, ending in November 2013, when prosecutors allege he slipped a drug into the drink of a woman at Ohm, a New Orleans nightclub.
The woman had confronted Licciardi over Sharper’s alleged rape two months earlier of a Saintsations cheerleader at Sharper’s condo on Tchoupitoulas Street, records show. She ended up unconscious in the club’s bathroom, remaining there until morning, court records show. She did not allege she was sexually assaulted.
Licciardi, who would later share incriminating information about Sharper, also is charged with witness tampering by urging a rape victim not to talk to investigators about him.
Nunez is accused of conspiring with Sharper and Licciardi to drug the cheerleader and another woman on Sept. 23, 2013. In a separate state case, he is accused of raping the same two women that night, along with Sharper, who last year pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible rape and a count of simple rape over that incident and another in August 2013.
Licciardi and Nunez both face state charges of aggravated rape that carry mandatory life prison terms if they are convicted.
The federal indictment also accuses Nunez of getting rid of a cellphone “at Sharper’s request” sometime after the alleged rapes at Sharper’s condo.
Licciardi and Nunez have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Licciardi’s attorney, Ralph Capitelli, declined to comment on the delay or the superseding indictment. Nunez’s attorneys, Herbert Larson and Sara Johnson, also declined to comment, citing a gag order in the case.
Sharper, meanwhile, has admitted to the drugging and rape or attempted rape of nine women in four states while he was retired and working as an NFL Network analyst.
Sharper, however, chose not to withdraw his federal guilty pleas, agreeing instead to put his fate in Milazzo’s hands, with hopes of leniency for his cooperation.
Milazzo has indicated that she’s likely to sentence Sharper to between 15 and 20 years following the trial for Licciardi and Nunez.
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