When Darren Sharper gets out of prison in less than a decade, if he wants to stay out, the former NFL star who once cut loose on the field and in nightclubs from Miami to Los Angeles will live the closely monitored life of a known predator.
During his first three to five years of freedom, California officials will track him by GPS.
He’ll undergo sex offender treatment for years.
He can’t drink alcohol for the rest of his life or go to bars or liquor stores. He can’t visit sex shops or chat on the Internet to get a date.
If he wants to spend the night away from home or travel more than 50 miles, state officials must approve it.
Sharper will be subject to lie detector tests and, while on lifetime probation in Arizona, to the “penile plethysmograph,” in which a sensor is attached to the penis while an array of sexual images flashes before his eyes, to gauge arousal.
Sharper will comply or land back in prison — in Arizona or Louisiana, or both — to serve at least another 14 years behind bars before returning to the same conditions.
Such are the terms of a “comprehensive and global disposition” that Sharper and prosecutors in four states have reached to resolve drugging and rape cases against him in Louisiana, Arizona, California and Nevada, covering nine sexual assault victims.
The terms of the deal remain for two judges in New Orleans — one federal, one state — to approve as public bewilderment rises locally and nationally over what many see as a sweetheart prison term for the retired ex-Saints star.
Sharper remains at the St. Tammany Parish jail, pending a guilty plea in federal court on three counts from an indictment accusing him and former St. Bernard Parish Deputy Brandon Licciardi in a years-long conspiracy to drug women to prime them for rape.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman made clear in her courtroom this week that she wouldn’t take Sharper’s guilty plea for three New Orleans rapes until after U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo signs off on the deal.
Under the terms of the deal, Herman would have the ultimate say over Sharper’s compliance and whether he must return to Louisiana to serve out an agreed-upon 20-year sentence on two counts of forcible rape and a count of simple rape.
Under the intricate agreement, Sharper’s time behind bars or while under parole or probation supervision in California and Arizona will be considered “in custody” time under the 20-year Louisiana sentence.
But if he runs afoul of the terms, only his time behind bars would be counted against those 20 years, with no credit for parole or probation time.
This week on WWL-TV, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro defended the seemingly lenient prison sentence for Sharper, citing closure for the victims.
“Look, certainly they would have liked to see a greater sentence imposed. I understand that, and we have discussed that with them,” Cannizzaro said. “But for all intents and purposes, these victims have been vindicated. They were in fact the victims of this man’s sexual assaults. They were not doing this for any financial gain, but simply they wanted to come forward and let the community know, ‘This guy violated us,’ and he is going to walk into the courtroom and plead guilty.”
Prosecutors in Los Angeles said the reluctance of victims to have their identities revealed when they testified in open court factored into striking the global plea deal.
The deal also requires Sharper to cooperate fully with authorities. He must sit down to be “interviewed and debriefed by law enforcement authorities” after the Louisiana pleas but before his formal sentencing.
The agreement does not limit the topics, and it demands that Sharper testify, if asked, before grand juries or at trials. It seems likely that, at a minimum, he’ll be asked to provide information about alleged co-conspirators Erik Nunez and Licciardi, both of whom have pleaded not guilty to rape charges.
After his various sentencing hearings are over, he’ll serve at least 101 months in a federal facility and the remainder — less than a year if he’s a model federal inmate — in California before he’s released to state and federal supervision there.
Just how closely he’ll be monitored by parole agents in the Golden State will be determined through a series of assessments, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“In general, the special conditions of parole are designed to keep the offender from the same sort of situation that he or she was in when they committed the crime,” Patino said.
State law requires that Sharper submit to HIV testing and that he “must pay actual restitution to the victims.”
Along with registering for life as a sex offender, he also must register as a narcotics offender under state law in California.
Once finished with parole in California, Sharper would move to Arizona for lifetime probation, according to the agreement.
There, his neighbors, school groups and any employers will be alerted to his presence, and his face, address and a description of his crimes may be posted on a flier.
The terms of that probation will continue if Sharper lands back in prison for violating the conditions of the deal and serves out his sentence in prison.
“There will never be a time he will be finished,” a person familiar with the deal said.
Arizona’s role will be gauging and mitigating the chances that the former Saint would reoffend.
Restrictions on where he can live, move or travel, and with whom he can spend time, are designed to limit Sharper’s opportunities to commit the crimes with which authorities charged him, experts say. According to the deal, one of the tools authorities could use is the penile plethysmograph, or PPG.
Commonly, rubber rings are placed around the penis to measure swelling in response to seeing certain pictures. Offenders might be shown depictions of both consensual and nonconsensual sex to compare the reactions and get a reading on whether rape arouses the subject, according to a 2012 research study.
Just how county probation departments in Arizona use such findings was unclear.
The deal doesn’t specify in which Arizona county Sharper must reside, and not every Arizona county’s probation department makes use of the penile testing. Maricopa County — the state’s largest, including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa — stopped awhile ago, said Michael Cimino, deputy chief of the county’s adult probation department.
“It’s not typically something we use any longer,” Cimino said. “It’s been several years.”
While Sharper has consented to such testing under the plea deal, many in the medical and legal communities don’t put much stock in it. The American Psychiatric Association years ago called the device unreliable, in part because men can feign responses during a PPG test by concocting images in their minds.
Federal appeals courts in New York and California have in a pair of cases rejected it as a method to monitor sex offenders, finding it unreasonably intrusive.
Still, Sharper’s concession to be subject to the test suggests a life in Arizona far removed from the one he enjoyed as a professional football player or television analyst before his January 2014 arrest in Los Angeles.
“Especially for a sex offender, I think it would be naive for someone to have the expectation that they’re going to have the same life when they go on probation that they did before they got on it,” said Joshua Davidson, an Arizona lawyer who represents such clients.
“When he’s an old man, (the probation) will extremely limit what he can do, where he can go and who he can see,” said Howard Snader, another Arizona criminal defense lawyer. “If you’re writing this from the angle that he’s never going to get out of the system, that’s correct. If you’re writing that he got a sweetheart deal, then, nah.”
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