Darren Sharper co-defendant Erik Nunez charged in federal court with impeding investigation _lowres

Erik Nunez

Once Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office turns over the evidence it has gathered against him, Darren Sharper co-defendant Erik Nunez will have plenty of material to prove he played no part in a plot to drug and rape women that authorities say Sharper and former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi carried out, an attorney for Nunez said Thursday.

Lawyers for Licciardi, meanwhile, argued that prosecutors should have to specify which narcotic they believe their client used on a woman he’s accused of drugging on Nov. 17, 2013. Until now, the drug has been described only as a noxious and dangerous chemical, said Ralph Capitelli and Brian Capitelli, who represent Licciardi.

The lawyers spoke during a discovery hearing before Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman. Another discovery hearing for Nunez and Licciardi is set for May 8, and one on motions is scheduled for May 22. Sharper has cut a deal that will resolve charges against him in four states and in federal court.

Nunez’s attorney, Sara Johnson, requested that prosecutors produce numerous items related to the charges against him, including lab reports, statements given to police by various figures and text messages sent among figures in the case.

She said such material would show key witnesses have plenty to say about Sharper and Licciardi but little, if anything, to say about Nunez. Some of the texts would reveal that Nunez and a woman he is accused of raping — a former co-worker — had dated, Johnson added.

Assistant District Attorney Inga Petrovich for the most part countered that prosecutors either had already turned over the materials Nunez’s lawyers were seeking or didn’t need to do so immediately — just ahead of any trial that might occur.

Herman frequently sided with Petrovich on Thursday. However, she said texts that Nunez sent and a statement he gave over the phone to Assistant District Attorney Mary Glass should be given to Nunez and his lawyers immediately.

In response to the Capitellis’ argument that her office needs to be more specific about the drug Licciardi is alleged to have used, Petrovich said it’s common practice for prosecutors to describe such things in general terms. Indictments following shooting incidents don’t usually specify the type of gun used, she said.

Herman agreed with Petrovich on that issue.

Nunez and Licciardi were both in court Thursday, wearing shackles and orange prison jumpsuits.

After the hearing ended, Licciardi looked over at several of his family members in attendance, including his father. Licciardi waved and mouthed “I love you” as he was led out of view.

Louisiana prosecutors have charged that Nunez and Sharper raped two women at Sharper’s condominium on Sept. 23, 2013. Nunez also is accused of obstruction of justice.

One of Licciardi’s charges in Louisiana state court is that he raped a woman Sharper allegedly helped him drug on Feb. 2, 2013. Licciardi also is accused of providing rape victims for his friend Sharper and, in one instance, Nunez.

Federal authorities also have charged Licciardi and Sharper with conspiring to drug women for the purpose of raping them between 2010 and last year.

Licciardi, 30, and Nunez, a 27-year-old who used to wait tables at Morton’s steakhouse, have pleaded not guilty in the case; they face life imprisonment if they’re convicted of the rapes.

Sharper, 39, was charged with using spiked drinks to drug women and rape them in Arizona, California, Nevada and Louisiana before he was arrested in January 2014. He struck a so-called “global” plea deal in the case last month. Under it, he’ll serve nine more years behind bars before he is eligible for parole, and he’ll be on lifetime probation after he’s released.

Editor’s note: This story was changed April 17 to make clear that while, Erik Nunez and a woman he is accused of raping were co-workers at one point, they did not work together at Morton’s steakhouse.