Former Saints star Darren Sharper’s legal woes increased dramatically Friday when state and federal grand juries delivered a one-two legal punch, indicting him on rape and drugging charges within hours of each other.
In addition to three charges against Sharper, a former All-Pro safety for the Saints, the state’s nine-count indictment charged Erik Nunez, previously arrested on suspicion of raping two women with Sharper in September 2013, and Brandon Licciardi, a St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office sergeant and a friend of Sharper’s, with trafficking of the alleged victims.
The six-count federal indictment accused Sharper and Licciardi of conspiring to distribute alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem — a sedative commonly known under the brand name Ambien — with the intent to commit rape, and two counts of distributing the substances with the intent to commit rape.
Licciardi was charged individually with two counts of witness tampering and one count of impeding an investigation.
The new charges are perhaps the most serious yet for the ex-Saint, who already has been charged with rapes and druggings in California and Arizona and who remains under investigation for a similar crime in Nevada.
The claims against Sharper are nearly identical in almost all of the cases. Women said he bought or made them drinks either at clubs or at an apartment. The women reported passing out a short time later and waking up hours later feeling as if they had been sexually assaulted and sometimes finding they were undressed. Authorities have alleged that Sharper laced the drinks with drugs that made the women unconscious.
Nandi Campbell, Sharper’s local attorney, declined to comment on the new charges until she could speak to him. She said she did not expect to do that Friday.
Sharper has remained jailed in Los Angeles since he was arrested there in February. His attorney’s efforts to have him released on bond have so far failed.
The Orleans Parish grand jury indicted Sharper, 39, on two counts of aggravated rape and a count of simple rape, an alleged crime that was mentioned for the first time Friday.
Aggravated rape convictions in Louisiana carry an automatic sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Police previously said Sharper drugged and raped two women on Sept. 23, 2013, at an apartment in the 700 block of Tchoupitoulas Street. The simple rape is reported to have occurred Aug. 31, 2013.
Police say Nunez raped the same two women in the September incident. Nunez was indicted on two counts of aggravated rape and a count of obstruction of justice.
The state grand jury indicted Licciardi on charges of aggravated rape for an apparently unrelated incident on Feb. 2, 2013, three charges of human trafficking and a charge of battery with a dangerous weapon for an incident on Nov. 17, 2013.
The state indictment accused him of providing the two victims the state says Sharper and Nunez raped in September, as well as the victim Sharper is accused of committing simple rape on days earlier.
“Mr. Licciardi will surrender himself as soon as the warrant is issued,” Licciardi’s attorney, Pat Fanning, said Friday morning. He said Licciardi had resigned earlier from the Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office issued a statement Friday afternoon saying that Licciardi was in federal custody.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann said he reassigned Licciardi to non-law-enforcement duties in June after learning the sergeant, who had been with the office since 2002, was under investigation in relation to the case.
One of the purported victims in the September 2013 incident involving Sharper and Nunez reported it to the New Orleans Police Department early the next morning, records show.
Her case was assigned to sex crimes detective Derrick Williams, one of five detectives in the Special Victims Section who were suspended last month in the wake of a blistering report on their failure to document any follow-up work in hundreds of cases from 2011 to 2013.
Sharper’s case was among the 271 cases that New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office identified as needing to be reinvestigated because of a lack of any supplemental police reports.
However, the IG’s report also said Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office did its own investigations into dozens of cases for which the five detectives failed to write up any supplemental reports, and that it has prosecuted many of them. Sharper’s case appears to fit into that category.
Bail for Licciardi was set at $2.9 million, while Nunez’s and Sharper’s bail was set at $2.5 million each.
Nunez’s attorney, Jeffery Smith, said his client will surrender on Monday and that he will argue Tuesday for a bond reduction before Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman.
Smith said nothing in the indictment is new and that his client has never failed to make court appearances while out on bond following his prior arrest.
“One of the alleged victims is someone he’s known, he has worked with and he’s dated in the past,” Smith said. “This bond is absolutely excessive. Erik has never missed a court appearance. Is there any concern that Erik Nunez is going to come to court? Of course not.”
Smith said the bond amount “has a lot to do with the sensationalism of the case.”
“We’re ready to deal with this at trial,” he said.
A spokesman for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office did not return a call seeking comment about whether authorities in New Orleans will seek to extradite Sharper from California.
Prosecutors in Los Angeles have charged him with two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of sale or transportation of zolpidem and one count of morphine possession.
In March, an Arizona grand jury indicted him on two counts of sexual assault and three counts of administering dangerous drugs.
Sharper, who played in the NFL between 1997 and 2010 and joined the Saints in 2009, remains under investigation in Nevada.