By Kathy Finn
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Former National Football League star Darren Sharper could be sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison in a case that accuses him of drugging and raping nine women in four states while working as a television analyst.
Sharper, 40, who retired from the NFL in 2011 after helping lead the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl championship, pleaded guilty in federal court in Louisiana to distributing controlled substances to unsuspecting women and then having sex with them while they were incapacitated.
He previously had pleaded guilty or no contest to rape or attempted rape charges in Arizona, California and Nevada.
In February U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of New Orleans rejected a proposed plea deal that carried a nine-year prison sentence for the five-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive back, calling it too lenient given the seriousness of all the allegations against him.
A revised plea agreement allows Milazzo to consider allegations made by 16 purported victims of Sharper's sexual violence, some of which did not result in formal charges, and send him to prison for about 15 to 20 years.
The plea deal also calls for a lifetime of parole and probation restrictions after Sharper completes his prison term.
Sharper's 14-year career in the NFL included stints with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. He was working as an NFL Network analyst when women began to allege that they had blacked out while drinking with him and woke up to find they had been sexually abused.
He was charged in Louisiana with drugging three women with the intent of raping them in 2013.
Milazzo agreed in June to delay Sharper's initial sentencing date so prosecutors could evaluate his cooperation in the cases of two co-defendants who were charged with participating in the Louisiana incidents.
Brandon Licciardi, a former police officer in suburban New Orleans, and former restaurant worker Erik Nunez pleaded guilty in July to charges they conspired to distribute drugs and commit rape. They face potential sentences of 10 to 17 years.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)