Darren Sharper’s second New Orleans court appearance this week was short and confusing: Rather than pleading guilty in Criminal District Court to two counts of forcible rape and another of simple rape as part of a global plea deal, as was widely expected, the former Saint left the courtroom Tuesday without entering any plea, and his arraignment was postponed.
The matter has been reset for June 15. Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman said she wanted Sharper’s federal charges resolved before he enters a plea in state court.
That resolution might be a considerable time away if Herman won’t consider the federal case resolved until a sentence is imposed, which could take weeks after a guilty plea is entered. Typically, a presentencing investigation takes place before a defendant who has pleaded guilty to federal charges is sentenced.
Sharper’s global deal is expected to leave him behind bars for at least another nine years for his role in the druggings and rapes of nine women in four different states.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether a wrench has been thrown into that deal. Attorneys for both sides huddled for several minutes before Herman took the bench and called off the hearing.
Two of Sharper’s accusers from New Orleans were present in the courtroom. Briefly, when he stood before the judge, the two women were less than five yards away from the former NFL All-Pro. Sharper, who was wearing shackles and an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit, had his back to the women at that moment.
After the hearing concluded, the women, their relatives, prosecutors and Sharper’s attorneys went into Herman’s chambers for several minutes with a court reporter.
Neither prosecutors nor Sharper’s attorneys spoke about the day’s events or what was discussed in the judge’s chambers. “We’ll wait for the federal case to be resolved, and then we’ll be back here June 15,” said one of Sharper’s lawyers, Nandi Campbell.
Sharper, 39, has already pleaded either guilty or no contest in cases built by authorities in California, Arizona and Nevada.
On Monday, he appeared in New Orleans’ U.S. District Court and pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he participated in a conspiracy to distribute drugs with the intent to commit rape — but he is expected to declare himself guilty in that case eventually as part of the deal he and his lawyers struck with prosecutors last month.
As part of the deal, Sharper is expected to be required to register as a sex offender upon his release, and he will be on probation for the rest of his life.
More than five years after he helped the Saints win their lone Super Bowl title, Sharper and a co-defendant, Erik Nunez, 27, are accused by state prosecutors in New Orleans of raping a former Saintsation cheerleader and another woman on Sept. 23, 2013, at Sharper’s condominium on Tchoupitoulas Street. Those two women were the ones who showed up in Herman’s courtroom Tuesday.
State prosecutors in New Orleans also accuse Sharper of raping another woman with the help of a second co-defendant — former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi — a few weeks earlier at a hotel across the street from the condo. Authorities also allege that Licciardi raped a woman he and Sharper drugged at a party the night before the 2013 Super Bowl was played in New Orleans.
Sharper has been in jail since he was arrested in Los Angeles on rape counts in January 2014. He was transferred from Los Angeles to the St. Tammany Parish jail last week.
Meanwhile, Licciardi, 30, has pleaded not guilty in both the state case against him and the federal one that portrays him as a co-conspirator in a plot to drug and rape women. Licciardi is due in New Orleans’ federal courthouse on Friday.
Nunez, who faces only state charges, also has pleaded not guilty.
Licciardi and Nunez, once a waiter at Morton’s Steakhouse, both befriended Sharper when the ex-Saints safety lived in New Orleans.
The charges Licciardi and Nunez are now battling in New Orleans state court include counts of aggravated rape,which is punishable by life imprisonment.
CORRECTION: This article erroneously reported that Darren Sharper had a federal court hearing in New Orleans set for Friday, April 10, 2015. He does not have one that day, and this article has been corrected to reflect that.