A federal judge on Thursday ordered prosecutors to turn over more details about their accusations against an alleged accomplice of former Saints safety Darren Sharper, who has pleaded guilty to various sex-related crimes in four states.
Former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brandon Licciardi, who is accused of helping Sharper drug women with the intention of raping them, also faces charges that he tried to pursue one or more witnesses in hopes of getting them to withhold information from investigators.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo told federal prosecutors that they have to tell Licciardi’s attorneys who those witnesses are.
Milazzo also ordered U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office to be specific about what Licciardi is accused of withholding from authorities during an interview with a New Orleans Police Department sex crimes detective in October 2013, and again in two meetings at Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office in early 2014.
The judge, however, denied a request from Licciardi’s attorneys for more details about three related drug charges.
The rulings came in response to a motion that father-son defense attorneys Ralph and Brian Capitelli filed recently, claiming the feds were being overly secretive about the allegations despite turning over a wealth of documents.
Licciardi, 30, was charged in a six-count federal indictment in December. A 10-year veteran of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office, he befriended Sharper in 2010 while working an off-duty detail chauffeuring the former All-Pro safety to a celebrity appearance. According to prosecutors, that friendship turned into a criminal conspiracy.
Licciardi resigned the day he was indicted. He has been jailed since then without bond, while Sharper has pleaded guilty in both state and federal courts and awaits sentencing under a “global” plea agreement to resolve accusations that he drugged and raped or attempted to rape nine women across four states.
Sharper also has pleaded no contest in California and guilty in Arizona and Nevada as part of the comprehensive deal.
Former Morton’s Steakhouse waiter Erik Nunez also was accused in the state indictment, but not the federal one at issue Thursday during the hearing before Milazzo.
Nunez, 28, and Licciardi both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, which include aggravated rape counts in state court that spell mandatory life prison sentences if they’re convicted.
At issue Thursday was whether the feds had done enough to define the allegations against Licciardi in the federal case, which accuses him of obstruction, witness tampering, conspiracy to drug women for the purposes of rape, and two specific counts of drugging women for rape — one on Feb. 2, 2013, and the other on Sept. 23, 2013.
Licciardi is accused of being Sharper’s accomplice in the drugging scheme involving Xanax, Ambien and Valium.
Brian Capitelli argued that the dual state and federal indictments over essentially the same alleged criminal acts were unprecedented.
He also argued that the accusations in federal court are vague. Lacking, he said, are specifics about just what Licciardi allegedly said, and to whom, to discourage a witness or witnesses from revealing information about him, and exactly what he is accused of withholding from investigators.
He also argued, in vain, that the feds needed to be more specific about the drug conspiracy count.
“This case is not about drugs. This case is about alleged sex crimes. So who are the victims? Who are the complaining witnesses?” he said. “You’ll see a lot of these women say the sex was consensual. We’re entitled to know who is making the complaints.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Miller argued that, because he’s provided “liberal discovery” already, with reams of material, Licciardi’s attorneys can figure out for themselves what Licciardi should have told investigators in a series of interviews, the transcripts of which show that he was slow to provide details and changed his story.
Milazzo disagreed, ordering the government to specify “the alleged false information provided and information failed to be provided.”
Licciardi and Nunez are due back in state court on July 9.
Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman, who is presiding over the state case, set a tentative Aug. 21 sentencing date for Sharper but indicated she would wait until the prosecutions of Licciardi and Nunez are resolved.
Milazzo set an Aug. 20 sentencing date for Sharper in the federal drug case.
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