A former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy, now facing criminal charges, was lying to “curry favor with prosecutors” and secure a more lenient sentence when he claimed that former Saints running back Reggie Bush handed out an illicit party drug in Las Vegas in 2011, Bush’s lawyer says.
Lawyer Shawn Holley said the NFL star never dropped Ecstasy into Champagne glasses at a Las Vegas club and handed the cocktail out to women on a nearby dance floor, no matter what Brandon Licciardi — a co-defendant in the drugging and rape case involving former Saints safety Darren Sharper — said in a 2014 interview with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.
“Mr. Bush recalls meeting Brandon Licciardi once, briefly, in New Orleans,” said a letter from Holley, an attorney in Los Angeles who has represented numerous celebrities. “But he categorically denies using or distributing — or saying any words to the effect that he had ever used or distributed — Ecstasy, MDMA (or ‘Molly’), or any other drug in the fashion described” in an article The Advocate published online Friday and in print Saturday about statements Licciardi made to the DA’s Office.
Holley’s letter on behalf of Bush also stresses that Licciardi’s motivations for making the charges are suspect.
According to transcripts obtained by The Advocate, Licciardi, at the time a St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy, was making his second visit with local investigators when he brought up Bush. He was not facing charges at the time, but he was quizzed about a Sept. 23, 2013, incident in which prosecutors say Sharper and an accomplice, Erik Nunez, both raped a member of the Saints’ cheerleading squad as well as another woman at Sharper’s condo on Tchoupitoulas Street.
A federal indictment issued in December alleges that Licciardi and Sharper both conspired to drug the cheerleader with Ambien in a plan for rape.
In the second interview, a week before Mardi Gras 2014, Licciardi first denied and then admitted he was aware Sharper had a penchant for drugging women. He continued denying any knowledge of rape but said he was worried by what he saw when he stopped at Sharper’s condo to check on the Saints cheerleader, an acquaintance of his.
New Orleans police would later refer to those statements by Licciardi about his being at the condo and what he saw there in their successful application for a warrant to arrest Sharper and Nunez on suspicion that they committed rape on Sept. 23, 2013.
Asked whether he knew of others who drugged women, Licciardi responded by recounting how, around spring 2011, he ran into Bush in the VIP area of a dance venue in Las Vegas. Licciardi said Bush recognized him as a friend of Sharper. Licciardi had befriended Sharper while working a security detail at a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Licciardi first said he saw Bush “put Molly in Champagne” and that “he was handing out Molly on the dance floor to girls.” Molly is a common name for MDMA, the active ingredient in the euphoria-inducing drug Ecstasy.
Asked how he knew all that, Licciardi said, “ ’Cause I saw it with my own eyes.”
Later in the interview, in response to another question about the Las Vegas party, Licciardi altered his story. This time, Licciardi said he didn’t see Bush put anything in the drinks that the running back said he had.
“He told me, and he said he was handing it to people, in Vegas,” Licciardi said. “He asked me if I wanted some. And I was like, ‘I don’t do that stuff.’ ”
Holley’s letter said Licciardi’s inconsistency demonstrates that his account was unreliable.
It was unclear whether Licciardi believed the people at the Las Vegas club he referred to were aware the drug was being dropped in their drinks.
Authorities have not accused Bush of drugging or raping anyone. It is also clear authorities did not believe at least some of what Licciardi said, given that he’s facing charges despite claiming he had not seen or done anything illicit.
An FBI agent testifying in federal court in December in relation to the Sharper case talked about Licciardi’s claim about the Las Vegas episode. No specific names were mentioned, but the agent, Robert Blythe, testified, “If given time, I intend to look further into those allegations.”
Blythe later added, “There could be investigations going forward. There’s not currently, but there could be going forward, related to the other persons involved in that incident.”
Nunez has pleaded not guilty to the state charges he faces. Licciardi has pleaded not guilty in both state and federal court and is in jail awaiting trial.
Ralph Capitelli, who has represented Licciardi since he was indicted in December, told The Advocate: “We did not represent Brandon at the time any of the statements quoted in your article were made to law enforcement.”
He added: “At this time, we are not going to comment on any of the specifics of those interviews. We do believe that Brandon was trying to cooperate and assist law enforcement in its investigation when he voluntarily spoke to them.”
Sharper is jailed in Los Angeles. A federal judge last month ordered him turned over to federal authorities for a scheduled Feb. 23 appearance in New Orleans. But that transfer is on hold as Sharper awaits a hearing tentatively scheduled for Feb. 17 in Los Angeles, where he faces two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of sale or transportation of zolpidem — a sedative commonly known under the brand name Ambien — and one count of morphine possession.
Sharper also faces rape and drugging charges in Arizona. All told, he is accused of drugging and raping at least seven women in four states.
Staff writer Gordon Russell contributed to this report.