Prosecutors: Darren Sharper paid co-defendant’s legal tab, so attorneys should be disqualified _lowres

Former NFL safety Darren Sharper, right, appears in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, March 23, 2015.

A federal judge on Thursday set May 29 as the date for Darren Sharper to plead guilty to charges in a December indictment accusing the former Saints defensive stalwart and a co-defendant in a scheme to drug women so they could then be raped.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo held a closed-door conference with Sharper’s attorneys and federal prosecutors before setting the rearraignment date for Sharper — a clear signal of a pending guilty plea.

A federal probation report would then be prepared before Milazzo sentences Sharper, who was indicted on three counts of conspiring to drug women with the intent to rape them.

Resolution of the federal case would mark the penultimate step in completing a “global” deal in five jurisdictions for the 39-year-old retired Super Bowl champion.

Sharper, who has spent the past 16 months behind bars, has agreed to serve at least nine more years in prison, most or all of it at a federal facility. After his release, he must adhere to a lifetime of probation demands, including restrictions on Internet use and a promise not to drink.

All told, Sharper has faced charges of drugging and raping or attempting to rape nine women in four states in 2013 and early 2014, while he was working as a commentator for the NFL Network.

He already has pleaded guilty or no contest in California, Arizona and Nevada.

The final piece of the deal is a pending guilty plea in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on charges that Sharper raped three women in New Orleans in late 2013.

Criminal District Judge Karen Herman has refused to allow Sharper to enter pleas on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of simple rape, insisting that the federal case be resolved first. Herman reasoned in court that Sharper faces the highest potential sentence — life in prison — on the charges handed up in December by an Orleans Parish grand jury.

She has set a June 16 arraignment date for Sharper on the rape charges. It is uncertain whether he will have been sentenced in federal court by then.

Under the deal, Sharper would plead guilty in state court to two counts of forcible rape and a count of simple rape in two separate incidents — one involving two women at his Tchoupitoulas Street condo, the other a few months earlier at a nearby hotel.

The nine-count state indictment also names former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy Brandon Licciardi and former Morton’s Steakhouse waiter Erik Nunez. Among the state charges against Licciardi and Nunez are aggravated rape counts. Licciardi, 30, also is named in all six counts of the federal indictment.

There is little indication that the global agreement is in jeopardy, although attorneys for Licciardi and Nunez both are seeking to quash the state indictment, citing flaws in the court process for allotting cases to Orleans Parish judges.

The Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear oral arguments over that challenge next week.

Sharper pleaded not guilty last month to the federal charges. Licciardi and Nunez have both pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.

Billy Gibbens, one of Sharper’s attorneys, declined to comment outside the courtroom Thursday.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.