A federal judge on Monday ordered the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — which is holding Darren Sharper without bail on charges of raping and drugging women — to surrender custody of the ex-Saints safety to federal authorities in New Orleans who allege he committed similar crimes here.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael B. North in New Orleans granted the order at the request of local federal prosecutors. The order calls for Sharper to appear in front of North for an initial appearance and arraignment at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 and to remain in U.S. custody until the conclusion of all federal proceedings.
At the conclusion of those proceedings, the order reads, Sharper may be returned to the sheriff of the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.
Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison declined to comment on the matter Monday. The extradition demand, or writ of habeas corpus, comes in the form of an order from the president of the United States and cannot be challenged.
The feds in New Orleans in December charged the former All-Pro in a six-count indictment accusing him of conspiring to distribute alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem — the sedative marketed as Ambien — with the intent to commit rape as well as two counts of distributing the substances intending to commit rape.
A friend and co-defendant of Sharper, Brandon Licciardi, was charged with the same federal offenses and individually with two counts of witness tampering as well as another of impeding an investigation. Licciardi was a sergeant in the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office, but he has resigned.
Additionally, authorities in Orleans Parish have brought up Sharper, Licciardi and a third man — Erik Nunez — on state charges. A nine-count state indictment accuses Sharper of committing aggravated rape on two drug-impaired women at his apartment in September 2013.
It also accuses him of committing simple rape — a crime with a lesser punishment — on another woman in August 2013.
Monday’s order puts the federal case ahead of any in other jurisdictions. But it potentially could make Sharper more accessible to state prosecutors in Orleans Parish, where the punishment for an aggravated rape conviction is severe: life imprisonment.
A spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The New Orleans Advocate on that point.
Licciardi is charged in state court with aggravated rape, three counts of human trafficking and one count of battery with a dangerous weapon. Nunez is charged with two counts of aggravated rape and a count of obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting text messages.
Sharper also has been charged with rapes and druggings in California and Arizona, and he has been under investigation for a similar crime in Nevada. Police in Los Angeles first arrested him in January 2014, and he has mostly been in jail since then.
In a telephone conversation with The New Orleans Advocate, longtime former federal and state prosecutor Donald “Chick” Foret said Monday’s development could mean Sharper’s case is resolved more quickly than it would’ve been in Los Angeles. That’s because there has been no significant progress in Sharper’s California case despite his being in custody there for almost a year, said Foret, a veteran legal analyst for WWL-TV.
The feds also may have an easier case to prove than the authorities of the various states accusing Sharper because theirs is primarily a narcotics one, Foret said. Narcotics violations are easier to prove than rape is, Foret added.
Sharper played in the NFL from 1997 through 2010. He signed with the Saints in 2009. On Feb. 7, 2010, he helped the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV, New Orleans’ lone major sports championship.