A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request by the two alleged accomplices of former Saints safety Darren Sharper that they be tried separately for what the government says was their roles in a scheme led by the retired All-Pro to drug women into a stupor before raping them.
Former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi and Erik Nunez, a former steakhouse waiter — both friends of Sharper — had asked that their trials be split. They argued that they would present antagonistic defenses to a federal indictment that also named Sharper before he pleaded guilty in June to both federal drug charges and three state rape counts.
The two men also noted that a superseding indictment handed up in July, while adding Nunez to the federal case, didn’t accuse the two men together in any single count. Their attorneys argued that the indictment suggested no conspiracy between the two men.
But in a seven-page order, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo noted that federal prosecutors on Oct. 22 secured a new indictment that names both men in a charge of conspiracy with Sharper to distribute the illicit drug Ecstasy and three different prescription drugs “with the intent to commit a crime of violence, that is, rape.”
Milazzo also said the risk of a “spillover effect” — that copious evidence against either man would tar the other unfairly at a joint trial — wasn’t enough to separate Nunez and Licciardi.
The two men “are now charged with crimes arising out of an alleged overarching conspiracy to drug and rape women. Any potential prejudice can be cured by jury instructions,” Milazzo ruled.
Nunez, 28, is named in the drug conspiracy charge as well as a charge alleging he disposed of his cellphone to skirt a grand jury probe into the alleged drugging scheme.
Licciardi, 30, is now named in five of the six federal counts, accused in the drugging scheme as well as a pair of witness tampering charges.
Both men also face pending charges from a nine-count state indictment that includes aggravated rape charges for each that carry a life prison sentence.
Licciardi was a 10-year veteran deputy who resigned on the day state and federal indictments were returned last December.
Both men have pleaded not guilty in state and federal courts.
Sharper, meanwhile, still awaits sentencing, having pleaded guilty as part of a “global” plea deal to resolve allegations that the retired Super Bowl champion drugged and raped or tried to rape nine women in four states.
Nunez and Licciardi are due to be arraigned on the superseding indictment Wednesday.
Milazzo has pushed back Sharper’s sentencing date while federal prosecutors and his attorneys submit arguments to support their deal, which would have Sharper serve about nine more years behind bars before his release to authorities in California and then Arizona. He has pleaded guilty or no contest in both states, along with Nevada, under the unusual global deal.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.