Former Saints safety Darren Sharper remained in a Los Angeles County jail on Friday while his alleged accomplice in a scheme to drug women so they could be raped appeared in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to plead not guilty to human trafficking and rape charges.
Brandon Licciardi, a 29-year-old former St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy, stood in orange St. Charles Parish jail scrubs, saying nothing as his attorneys entered the plea for him.
Licciardi entered the same not guilty plea in federal court in New Orleans in December, after a grand jury indicted him and Sharper for allegedly conspiring to distribute Ambien, Xanax and Valium to women for the purpose of rape.
Licciardi also is charged in the federal indictment with two counts of witness tampering for allegedly twice trying to dissuade a female witness from revealing information to a grand jury.
Sharper too had been scheduled to enter a plea Friday in the state case: a nine-count indictment that includes allegations against the two men and a Sharper associate, Erik Nunez, of aggravated rape, a crime that carries a mandatory life prison sentence under Louisiana law.
A federal judge last month ordered that Sharper be turned over to federal authorities for a scheduled Feb. 23 appearance in New Orleans. But that transfer is on hold as Sharper awaits a hearing tentatively scheduled for Feb. 17 in Los Angeles. That’s where the former two-time All-Pro faces two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of sale or transportation of zolpidem — a sedative commonly known under the brand name Ambien — and one count of morphine possession.
Sharper, 38, also faces rape and drugging charges in Arizona. All told, he is accused of drugging and raping at least seven women in four states.
Federal prosecutors in New Orleans on Friday filed a motion for U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo to cancel her earlier order and instead order Sharper to be brought to New Orleans for an April 6 arraignment.
In the state case, Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman reset Sharper’s arraignment date to March 6, though it was unclear whether Sharper will make it, given the new federal timetable.
The state indictment against Licciardi, Sharper and Nunez accuses Licciardi of aggravated rape, three counts of human trafficking and one count of battery with a dangerous weapon — a drug used on a woman who allegedly was raped by Sharper and Nunez on Sept. 23, 2013.
Nunez also appeared in court Friday, saying nothing as his attorney, Jeffrey Smith, announced he would file a motion to sever the former Morton’s Steakhouse waiter from the three-defendant case.
Smith argues that Nunez should be split off because prosecutors could use statements Licciardi has made against his client in a trial.
The rape allegation against Licciardi relates to an incident with a woman identified in the indictment only as “M.B.” It allegedly occurred on Feb. 2, 2013, the day before the Super Bowl was held at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome.
Herman set Licciardi’s bail at $2.9 million when the indictment came down on Dec. 12, but a federal judge in New Orleans has since denied him bond.
The son of a former high-ranking Sheriff’s Office official, Licciardi had been on the force in St. Bernard for a decade before he resigned on the day the state and federal indictments were returned in New Orleans.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.