Former Saints player Darren Sharper on Monday admitted raping three women in 2013 in New Orleans, where he helped capture the city’s lone major professional sports championship a little more than five years ago.
Wearing an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit and shackles, Sharper pleaded guilty to two charges of forcible rape and one of simple rape in front of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman. That followed his pleading guilty or no contest in March to raping a total of six other women in Los Angeles; Las Vegas; and Tempe, Arizona.
Sharper has also pleaded guilty in New Orleans’ federal court to drugging women for the purpose of raping them. Sentencing in that case is tentatively set for Aug. 20.
The plea in Herman’s courtroom was the last of five in a “global” deal resolving the criminal charges against Sharper, 39, without requiring trials in four separate states.
Under the deal, Sharper will serve at least nine more years in federal custody before being released to California parole officials and, after that, lifetime probation administered by the state of Arizona.
Herman tentatively set an Aug. 21 date in her courtroom to sign off on the agreed-upon sentence in exchange for his pleas in the various jurisdictions, but she said she would most likely delay imposing the sentence until the trials of two co-defendants in the case are held.
State prosecutors in Louisiana have charged co-defendants Erik Nunez, 28, and Brandon Licciardi, 30, with a variety of crimes, including aggravated rape, which carries life imprisonment upon a conviction.
Nunez, a former waiter at Morton’s Steakhouse, and ex-St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy Licciardi have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Licciardi was also charged in the same federal drug conspiracy case to which Sharper pleaded guilty; he has denied any wrongdoing in that case as well.
No trial date has been set for either Licciardi or Nunez in state court. Licciardi’s federal court trial date is tentatively set for Oct. 13.
The former All-Pro safety has also agreed to share with investigators any knowledge he has about crimes others may have committed. The global deal is contingent on investigators being satisfied with his honesty in those interviews.
The plea deal has run into public criticism because Sharper — never having disputed that he raped nine women — could be out of prison as soon as 2024. But people familiar with the deal say Sharper, once he’s released, will be hard-pressed to satisfy all of the complex terms governing his parole and probation. Those terms prohibit him from ever drinking alcohol or using the Internet to find a date, among many other conditions.
Violating the terms of his release would result in Sharper serving at least another 14 years in prison — and then returning to the same strict conditions of probation.
Under the Louisiana portion of the deal, Sharper agreed to plead guilty to two counts of forcible rape from an incident at his condominium, and a simple rape count from an assault at a hotel across the street from his condo.
Technically, he agreed to accept a sentence of 20 years at hard labor without parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
Normally, he would be required to serve at least 85 percent of that Louisiana sentence. But the 15-page, multi-state agreement to which Sharper and Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney David Pipes attached their signatures Monday morning is anything but normal.
It spells out that the time Sharper serves in federal prison, on parole in California and while on lifetime probation in Arizona will be credited toward his Louisiana prison sentence. Only if he fails to live up to the bargain could Sharper could find himself in a Louisiana prison serving the 20-year sentence.
Ultimately, it’s up to Herman to decide whether Sharper has complied fully with the terms of the deal, according to the agreement. However, she read aloud `the entire 39-paragraph memorandum of understanding spelling out the global deal, a procedural step indicating that she has accepted its terms.
After finishing each paragraph, Herman asked Sharper whether he had reviewed that passage. Sharper each time quietly answered, “Yes.”
One of Sharper’s defense lawyers in New Orleans, Nandi Campbell, declined to comment after the hearing.
The three rapes Sharper concedes that he committed in New Orleans occurred on two separate days: Aug. 31, 2013, and Sept. 23, 2013.
In the first incident, prosecutors alleged, Sharper and Licciardi booked adjoining rooms at a hotel across the street from the former NFL player’s luxury condominium on Tchoupitoulas Street. The victim was a Lafayette woman Licciardi met on Facebook, authorities allege.
The woman told authorities that she and Licciardi first had consensual sex, then he brought her to a club where Sharper was hanging out, pouring drinks and smoking what the woman thought was marijuana. Sharper eventually brought the woman back to the Tchoupitoulas Street hotel and raped her, texting Licciardi, “We need an hour in here,” prosecutors allege.
In the second incident, Sharper, Licciardi and Nunez had all been at the same French Quarter nightclub that night, as were two women who would later tell police they were raped. One of them, a former Saintsations cheerleader, was a friend of Licciardi who had driven with the deputy and Sharper to the club, Jax, on Decatur Street.
Sharper in federal court admitted one of those two women had been given a drink she didn’t know had been spiked with Ecstasy. The other woman from that same night was given a drink spiked with Ambien, Sharper admitted in federal court.
After the women had been drugged and incapacitated, prosecutors alleged, Sharper raped both of them at his condo on Tchoupitoulas. Nunez is also charged with raping both women. The second woman acknowledged having consensual sex with Nunez three times before that night. Unlike with Sharper, DNA testing did not reveal evidence that Nunez had sex with the former cheerleader.
Strengthening the case against Sharper in those rapes was the fact that he had told a male friend of one of the victims at the club that night that she was “ready” and “on that potion” before leaving with her, according to the witness, who said he took Sharper’s remarks to mean that the woman had been drugged.
Investigators also found evidence that Sharper had sent Licciardi a video of one of the women raped at the former football player’s condo. According to Licciardi’s account to investigators, the video shows the woman’s genitals and what he believed was Sharper’s hand and penis.
At least one of the victims in the second incident was in Herman’s courtroom Monday surrounded by a group of supporters when Sharper entered his guilty pleas. After the hearing wrapped up, they walked in a tight group over to her car. Neither she nor those accompanying her made any statements before she drove off.
In the state case, Licciardi — who ultimately turned over his phone to authorities — is not accused of raping any of the same women as Sharper. Instead he’s charged with raping a woman authorities alleged he and Sharper drugged with Ecstasy, Xanax and Valium slipped in a drink.
Drug testing indicated that woman also had Ambien in her system around the time Licciardi raped her in Sharper’s condo after meeting her at a pre-2013 Super Bowl party in New Orleans, authorities allege.
Police in California arrested Sharper in January 2014, and he’s been behind bars ever since, most recently in the St. Tammany Parish jail. Nunez and Licciardi were arrested later, and since December they have been jailed in St. Charles Parish.
Sharper was working as a Los Angeles-based analyst for the NFL Network when he was jailed, but football fans know him better from his days playing for the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Saints from 1997 to 2010.
In his second-to-last NFL season, Sharper scored a career-high three touchdowns off interceptions to help the Saints get to Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. He set a league record for interception return yards that year, a mark that has not yet been surpassed.