Federal prosecutors in New Orleans want a judge to impose a gag order on attorneys involved in the case against ex-Saints player Darren Sharper and alleged accomplice Brandon Licciardi, who are charged with drugging women to prime them for rape.
U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office made the request Friday, two weeks after The New Orleans Advocate published a story based on transcripts of interviews Licciardi gave to authorities in 2014, during which he claimed to have seen Saints running back Reggie Bush drop Ecstasy into Champagne glasses and hand out the illicit party drug to women on a nearby dance floor at a Las Vegas club.
A lawyer for Bush has vehemently denied Licciardi’s statements about her client, accusing the defendant of lying to curry favor with the authorities.
Bush has never been accused of any crimes related to Licciardi’s claims, which were not completely consistent: At one point in the interview, Licciardi said he saw Bush drop the drug into drinks “with my own eyes,” and later he said Bush simply told him he had done so when they were at the Vegas club about spring 2011.
In a memo supporting its request to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo for a gag order, Polite’s office wrote that it is seeking to protect the privacy of victims and witnesses in the case from “undue and improper pressure, intimidation or harassment brought upon them from third parties.”
“These latter concerns are especially present given the media interest in this prosecution,” Polite’s office said of the case against Sharper — a retired, two-time All-Pro safety who helped the Saints win the 2009 NFL season’s Super Bowl — and Liccardi, a former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy.
The request for a gag order calls for Milazzo to prevent defense attorneys from permitting other people, including members of the news media, from viewing or copying evidence provided in the discovery process. It also asks Milazzo to prohibit the defense from revealing any identifying information about victims or witnesses and instead to designate them using combinations of descriptions, numbers and letters in court filings.
“Witnesses and victims sometimes face a significant risk of retaliation, intimidation, harassment or other harm,” the filing from Polite’s office said. “These risks are not limited to gang or violent crime cases.”
There was no immediate response to the request from any other parties on Monday.
Federal authorities specifically accuse Sharper and Licciardi of distributing the drugs known by the brand names Ambien, Xanax and Valium “with the intent to commit” rape during a four-year period ending in 2014.
Licciardi resigned from the Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 12, the day state and federal grand jury indictments related to the case came down in New Orleans. He is being held without bail in St. Charles Parish on the six-count federal indictment, which also charges him with trying to dissuade a female witness from revealing information about him to a grand jury two times.
Sharper, Licciardi and Erik Nunez also are named in a separate state indictment in Orleans Parish that includes allegations against all three of aggravated rape, a crime that carries a mandatory life prison sentence under Louisiana law.
Licciardi has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Nunez has pleaded not guilty to the state charges he faces.
Sharper is jailed in Los Angeles, where he faces two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of sale or transportation of Ambien and one count of morphine possession. He is also facing rape charges in Arizona and was under investigation for similar incidents in Florida and Nevada.