Federal prosecutors and lawyers defending a man charged with helping former Saints player Darren Sharper drug women to prime them for rape have reached a compromise on a request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans to put a gag order on the case.
Under the agreement, neither U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office nor the lawyers defending Brandon Licciardi will provide “the names, addresses, telephone numbers or other identifying information of any witness or victim to any third parties, including any member of the media ... or any social networking website or outlet,” according to a joint court filing made available online Thursday.
In addition, neither side will allow others to copy information that could be used against Licciardi at a trial and distribute it to third parties, such as reporters, the filing said. But Licciardi’s lawyers will be able to review such information with their support staff and others who are central to the case.
Furthermore, victims and “non-expert” witnesses in the case will be identified solely by combinations of numbers and letters in written documents related to the prosecution of Licciardi and Sharper, the filing said.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Miller and Michael McMahon had been scheduled to argue their motion for a gag order against defense lawyers Ralph Capitelli and Brian Capitelli in front of Judge Jane Triche Milazzo on Thursday morning. Instead, Milazzo signed off on the compromise.
Ralph Capitelli said he was pleased with the agreement, which he said “does not infringe in any way on our ability to defend Brandon or prepare his defense.”
Polite’s office said it was seeking to protect the privacy of victims and witnesses in the case and prevent any “improper pressure, intimidation or harassment brought upon them from third parties.” Originally, Polite’s office in part had requested that the defense attorneys essentially be barred from permitting anyone other than themselves to keep copies of information that could be used at the trial.
Licciardi’s lawyers countered that such a restriction would have “dramatically” impaired their client’s ability to prepare a defense. They also criticized Polite’s office for basing its request for the gag order on case law that the defense said mostly involved “terrorists, war criminals and international drug cartel members.”
Federal authorities have accused Sharper and Licciardi of distributing drugs known by the brand names Ambien, Xanax and Valium “with the intent to commit” rape during a four-year period ending in 2014.
Licciardi, a former deputy, resigned from the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 12 after state and federal indictments related to the case were returned in New Orleans. He is being held without bail in St. Charles Parish on the six-count federal indictment, which also charges him with twice trying to talk a female witness out of revealing information about him to a grand jury.
Aside from Licciardi, 30, Sharper and Erik Nunez are named in a separate state indictment in Orleans Parish that includes allegations against all three of aggravated rape, a crime carrying a mandatory life prison sentence in Louisiana.
Licciardi and Nunez, 27, have pleaded not guilty. Sharper, 39, is jailed for now in Los Angeles, where he faces charges of rape by use of drugs, four counts of sale or transportation of Ambien and one count of morphine possession. He also is facing rape charges in Arizona and was investigated for similar incidents in Florida and Nevada.
Before retiring from the NFL, Sharper in February 2010 helped the Saints win their lone Super Bowl championship.