A former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy who has been charged with helping formerSaints safety Darren Sharperdrug women to prime them for rape told investigators that a few years earlier, he saw former 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.
The ex-deputy, Brandon Licciardi, 29, told authorities about the episode in an interview last year at Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office.
It was Licciardi’s second visit with Orleans Parish investigators, who quizzed him 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, the Saintsations, and another woman at Sharper’s condo on Tchoupitoulas Street.
A federal indictmentissued in December alleges that Licciardi and Sharper conspired to drug the cheerleader with Ambien in a plan for rape.
In the interview, a week before Mardi Gras 2014, Licciardi first denied and then ultimately admitted that he was aware Sharper had a penchant for drugging women.
He continued to deny any knowledge of rape, though he said he was troubled by what he saw when he dropped in on Sharper’s condo that night to check on the Saintsation, an acquaintance of his.
The interviewers dug further, asking whether he had seen or heard of other women being drugged.
Licciardi recalled running into Bush in the VIP area of a dance venue in Las Vegas. Bush recognized Licciardi as a friend of Sharper, he said.
“OK, um, I was in Vegas about three years ago and um, Reggie Bush put Molly in Champagne. He was handing out Molly on the dance floor to girls. Handing it out. Like giving it to them,” Licciardi said.
“And how do you know that?” asked James O’Hern, an investigator for the DA’s Office.
“ ’Cause I saw it with my own eyes,” Licciardi responded.
“Molly” is a common name for MDMA, the active ingredient in the euphoria-inducing party drug Ecstasy. The time frame that Licciardi recalled, spring 2011, was shortly before the Saints traded Bush to the Miami Dolphins that July.
Later in the interview, Licciardi backpedaled when asked again about the Las Vegas party.
“Reggie, yeah. No, I didn’t see him put it in the drink. He told me. And he said he was handing it to people, in Vegas,” Licciardi said, adding, “He asked me if I wanted some. And I was like, ‘I don’t do that stuff.’”
It was unclear from the interview whether Licciardi believed the women at the Las Vegas club were aware the drug was being dropped in their drinks.
Authorities have not accused Bush of drugging or raping anyone.
An agent for Bush — now a Detroit Lions player — didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. A text message to a phone number that records said was associated with Bush wasn’t immediately returned.
However, Dave Birkett, a Lions beat writer for The Detroit Free Press newspaper, reported on Friday that an attorney for Bush said, “Reggie adamantly, vehemently and unequivocally denies all of the statements in that article.”
“This is outrageous,” Birkett quoted lawyer Shawn Holley as saying. “We are demanding a retraction from The Advocate and Reggie is considering taking legal action.”
Bush took it a step further on Twitter later Friday, dismissing The Advocate’s story as false and irresponsible and calling for the reporters who authored it to be fired. He added he intended to take legal action against The Advocate if it did not retract the article.
A lawyer for Licciardi declined comment.
Investigators with New Orleans police and Cannizzaro’s office clearly didn’t believe at least some of what Licciardi told them over the course of at least two interviews early last year, transcripts of which were obtained by The New Orleans Advocate. And Licciardi admitted telling some falsehoods.
After he first spoke with a New Orleans sex crimes detective, Licciardi and his attorney at the time, Pat Fanning, sat down with investigators at Cannizzaro’s office on Jan. 30, 2014.
Licciardi insisted he was being fully cooperative and expressed shock over the mounting allegations against Sharper, whom the deputy said he had befriended after working a security detail at a Bourbon Street bar.
By the time of the second interview about a month later, authorities had accused Sharper of drugging and raping at least seven women in four states. Licciardi revised his earlier statements, admitting he had previously left out key facts and acknowledging he had been deceptive both in the January interview and with police.
He also turned over a cellphone he earlier said he no longer possessed. Investigators prodded Licciardi about several text messages found in the phone from Sharper.
One of those texts referred to Sharper’s use of the term “beating,” which Licciardi said meant having sex. Investigators also asked about a reference to “potion,” a term Licciardi said he didn’t recall Sharper using.
“No, not potion,” he said. “We said mollywop.”
Licciardi later said he thought Sharper had used that term — urban slang for a hard punch to a woman — in reference to a woman “drunk or f----- up, she was messed up.”
Licciardi’s claim about the Las Vegas episode involving Bush came up at a December federal court hearing in New Orleans, but Bush’s name did not. The lead FBI agent on the case, Robert Blythe, was asked whether the government was looking into it.
Blythe replied: “If given time, I intend to look further into those allegations.” Later, he 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.”
Blythe also testified that Licciardi had told authorities about a night of partying during which a football player had warned him to avoid drinking from a number of glasses of Champagne that had been laced with a substance. The player referred to the concoction as “horny juice.”
Under questioning from Licciardi’s attorney, Blythe declined to name the player who uttered the phrase, saying he feared he might make a mistake.
“I’d like to look at my report — it’s possible I could mix it up with a couple, unfortunately,” he said before that line of questioning stalled.
The transcript of Licciardi’s second interview at Cannizzaro’s office shows that it was Sharper who he said warned him away from the “horny juice.”
Licciardi maintained to authorities that Sharper never told him of a specific woman he had drugged. And he said he was dumbfounded by the rape allegations against the former NFL star, to whom women flocked.
“Why would someone want to have sex with someone that’s half-dead basically? That blows my mind, you know,” Licciardi said in the second interview. “When he told me that he was doing it, he said it was horny juice, it makes them real horny. You know?”
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 over a four-year period ending last year.
Licciardi was a 10-year sheriff’s deputy until he submitted a one-sentence, handwritten resignation letter on Dec. 12, the day state and federal grand jury indictments came down in New Orleans.
A federal judge has ordered that he be held without bail on the six-count federal indictment, which also accuses him of twice trying to dissuade a female witness from revealing information about him to a grand jury.
He is being held in the St. Charles Parish jail.
Sharper, Licciardi and Nunez also are named in the nine-count state indictment, which includes allegations against all three of aggravated rape, a crime that carries a mandatory life prison sentence under Louisiana law.
Licciardi pleaded not guilty to those charges Friday at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
This post has been updated since it was first published, in part to include a denial of Licciardi’s claims by an attorney for Bush to The Detroit Free Press as well as a remark from Bush via Twitter.