Louisiana appeals court orders new judge for Darren Sharper’s co-defendants _lowres

Erik Nunez

A former New Orleans steakhouse waiter accused of raping two women along with former Saints safety Darren Sharper in 2013, then destroying his phone to conceal evidence, is asking a federal judge to split him off from his co-defendant in a federal case surrounding Sharper’s admitted sexual misdeeds.

Erik Nunez wants to distance himself as much as possible from former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi, who is accused in the federal case of conspiring with Sharper to drug women for the purpose of raping them and also of witness tampering.

Nunez and Licciardi also are the remaining defendants in a state prosecution in New Orleans in which Sharper pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible rape and one count of simple rape.

Nunez’s attorneys argued Friday that the federal indictment to which he was added just last month — and only on a separate count of impeding a grand jury investigation — unfairly loops him in with Licciardi.

Attorneys Herb Larson and Sara Johnson invoked a federal appeals court ruling in the case of three New Orleans police officers convicted of shooting Henry Glover days after Hurricane Katrina, burning his body in a car on the Algiers levee and then covering it up.

In that case, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the conviction of the officer who killed Glover, David Warren, was unfairly tainted by the conspiracy charge that federal prosecutors put forward against Warren’s co-defendants at their joint trial. In a second trial, of Warren alone, a jury in 2013 acquitted him in the killing.

Nunez’s attorneys argue that Licciardi’s claim that he saw Nunez at Sharper’s condo on Tchoupitoulas Street, coming out of Sharper’s bedroom the night two women said they were raped, was key to Nunez’s arrest and prosecution.

They also cited numerous statements in which witnesses in the Sharper rape case did not implicate Nunez or even mention him. Licciardi himself referred to Nunez as “a nobody.” Another witness called him “some fat guy.”

Unless Nunez is severed from the case, he will be “lumped in” to the drug conspiracy allegations that Licciardi faces, his attorneys argued Friday.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo set a Sept. 10 hearing date on the motion.

Sharper pleaded guilty in New Orleans federal and state courts in June as part of a multiple-state deal over the drugging and rape or attempted rape of nine women in four states. He awaits sentencing in both courts.

Nunez and Licciardi face a March trial date.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.