Five years after he helped inspire a city during the Saints’ lone championship season, Darren Sharper is set to confess Monday to a sordid pattern of sexual assaults — drugging and raping women from California to Louisiana — after his retirement from the NFL.
Sharper has struck a “global” plea deal to resolve pending charges in all four states where he has been indicted, as well as a related federal drug case based in New Orleans, authorities said Friday.
Terms of the stunning plea agreement were not disclosed, but Sharper’s attorney, Blair Berk, confirmed it after announcing it Friday in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Berk told reporters that the former NFL safety would enter a plea Monday in two jurisdictions, including California, in response to sexual assault allegations pending there as well as in New Orleans, Las Vegas and the Phoenix area. Court records show a change-of-plea hearing also has been set for Monday in Tempe, Arizona.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro issued a statement Friday afternoon confirming the deal and saying he expects Sharper, 39, to be brought to Louisiana within a month to plead to the charges he faces here — both state and federal.
U.S. Attorney Ken Polite’s office said Sharper is still slated to be in federal court in New Orleans on April 6 for his first appearance to answer to a six-count indictment that also names Brandon Licciardi, a former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy, in a conspiracy to drug women to prime them for rape.
Anna Christman, a spokeswoman for the office, said Polite had no further comment on the case.
Authorities in Los Angeles said they would have no comment until Monday, when Sharper is expected to enter a plea on the California charges. A hearing has been set for 10:30 a.m. Pacific time.
The announcement of a plea deal came shortly after the filing of rape charges against Sharper in Las Vegas on Friday. He is accused of drugging and raping two unconscious tourists at a hotel there. Police there say Sharper went club-hopping with the women in January 2014 and took them to his hotel room, where he drugged them and then raped them after they lost consciousness.
Sharper’s Las Vegas attorney, David Chesnoff, declined to comment on the new charges, which each carry a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.
Sharper has been jailed in Los Angeles since his arrest on Jan. 17, 2014. At a preliminary hearing there Friday, he entered procedural pleas of not guilty to charges of rape by use of drugs, the illegal sale or transportation of Ambien and illicit possession of morphine.
In all four states where Sharper faces charges, he has been accused of drugging women and then raping them, sometimes in conjunction with alleged accomplices. Sharper had a prescription for Ambien, according to public court documents.
In New Orleans, federal authorities have charged Sharper and Licciardi with distributing drugs sold under the brand names Ambien, Xanax and Valium with the intent to commit rape during a four-year period ending in 2014.
The state charges in New Orleans, contained in a December indictment, accuse Sharper, Licciardi and a third man, Erik Nunez, 27, each of aggravated rape, among other allegations involving several female victims. Aggravated rape carries a mandatory life prison sentence in Louisiana.
Licciardi and Nunez have pleaded not guilty.
Sharper retired from the NFL in 2010. He was fired from his job as an analyst for the NFL Network when the rape allegations surfaced.
Licciardi, 30, resigned from the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 12 after both state and federal indictments related to the case against him and Sharper were returned in New Orleans. He is being held without bail in St. Charles Parish on the federal indictment, which also charges him with twice trying to dissuade a female witness from revealing information about him to a grand jury.
In his statement Friday, Cannizzaro thanked “the victims who have stood tall and remained very strong throughout this process.”
He added that “the only concern of the victims in the New Orleans cases has been and remains the conviction of their attackers and (they) have sought no attention or personal gain. This plea constitutes a complete vindication of these victims as well as their truthfulness.”
Jeffrey Smith, an attorney for Nunez, said the multistate plea deal for the ex-NFL’er won’t affect his client’s insistence on his innocence.
Nunez is accused of raping two women along with Sharper at the former Saints player’s condo on Tchoupitoulas Street in September 2013. Smith said Nunez had consensual sex with one woman, with whom he’d previously been intimate.
“It absolutely has no bearing on Erik Nunez at all,” Smith said of Sharper’s plea deal. “For over a year, the district attorney, while (Nunez) was out on bond, was always coming to us looking for information, and we couldn’t do it because we didn’t know anything to give them.”
Smith added, “I’m hoping if Erik was a pawn, they’ll do the right thing.”
Licciardi’s lead defense attorney, Ralph Capitelli, said he would wait to comment until he had more information on Sharper’s deal.
Aside from facing rape charges in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Arizona, Sharper was investigated for similar incidents in Florida.
Staff writer Gordon Russell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.