Attorney: Ex-NFL player Sharper plans to plea in rape cases

AP News
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Posted: Mar 20, 2015 7:35 PM
Attorney: Ex-NFL player Sharper plans to plea in rape cases

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five years after reaching the NFL pinnacle by earning a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints in an All-Pro season, Darren Sharper is looking at a long stretch in prison after his lawyer said Friday the former safety reached a plea agreement that will settle rape charges involving at least nine women in four states.

All the alleged incidents came after Sharper's retirement in 2011, and the cases involved similar allegations that he slipped drugs to women and sexually assaulted them when they were unconscious or otherwise unable to resist or consent.

His Los Angeles attorney, Blair Berk, said Sharper would enter pleas in the Los Angeles and Phoenix areas on Monday that would resolve allegations there and in New Orleans and Las Vegas. Brian Russo, his attorney in Arizona, said his client will use video conferencing from Los Angeles, where he's being held, to allow him to make a change of plea in Phoenix.

Only prosecutors in Nevada provided details of their part of the deal with Sharper. He is expected to plead guilty there on Tuesday to one felony charge of attempted sexual assault, with the expectation that he'll face between 38 months and eight years in prison, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told The Associated Press. He had previously been charged in the state with two counts of felony sexual assault, each carrying a possible 10 years to life.

"We are pleased that Mr. Sharper is accepting responsibility for the crimes he committed in Nevada," Wolfson said.

Wolfson said the Nevada prison term would run concurrent with other sentences in other jurisdictions.

"I'm not sure where he's going to serve his time," Wolfson said, "But he's going to serve significant time."

The announcement came after a morning of closed-door meetings in the Los Angeles chambers of Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor.

The Las Vegas charges, filed earlier Friday before the agreements were announced, had the same pattern as the previous allegations. Prosecutors there alleged that Sharper went club-hopping with two female tourists and took them to his hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip, where he drugged and sexually assaulted them while they were unconscious.

He had been sought on a warrant in Nevada, but he had been jailed since Feb. 27, 2014, in Los Angeles, where he had been due for a preliminary hearing Friday after pleading not guilty to drugging and raping two women there in 2013.

The New Orleans charges allege that he sexually assaulted three women in 2013. The Arizona charges allege that he drugged three women and sexually assaulted two of them in November 2013 in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe.

New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro wrote in a statement that he expects Sharper will be sent to Louisiana within 30 days to plead guilty to federal and state charges filed there.

Cannizzario thanked victims in the cases for remaining involved despite personal attacks on their credibility. "This plea constitutes a complete vindication of these victims as well as their truthfulness," he wrote.

Sharper had a 14-year All-Pro career as a safety with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. He played in one Super Bowl with the Packers and was part of the Saints' only championship season.

He was working as an analyst for the NFL Network before being fired when the rape allegations surfaced.

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Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.