Sharper, others indicted in New Orleans rape cases

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Federal and state grand juries in New Orleans added new sexual assault and drug charges Friday to the multi-state criminal counts faced by former New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper.

Sharper, 39, was indicted by a grand jury on two state counts of aggravated rape stemming from accusations that he sexually assaulted two drug-impaired women at his apartment in September 2013, District attorney's spokesman Christopher Bowman said Friday morning. Sharper also was charged with simple rape of a different woman in August 2013.

Also indicted on state charges Friday: Brandon Licciardi, 29. He is a friend of Sharper's and also is a former sheriff's deputy in nearby St. Bernard Parish. He was indicted on a charge of aggravated rape of a woman on Feb. 2, 2013, three counts of human trafficking for the purposes of providing sexual conduct and with one count of battery.

Erik Nunez, 27, another Sharper acquaintance, was charged with two state counts of aggravated rape for his alleged involvement with the two women at Sharper's apartment. Nunez also was charged with obstruction of justice.

Under Louisiana law, simple rape includes sexual intercourse with a victim incapable of resisting for reasons that include unsoundness of mind or intoxication. Aggravated rape can involve force, threats of harm or the involvement of more than one perpetrator.

Later Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans announced federal charges against Sharper and Licciardi.

''Sharper and Licciardi conspired to distribute narcotics to several women with the intent to commit rape,'' U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said in a prepared statement.

The federal indictment charges Sharper and Licciardi with distributing the drugs alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem - more commonly known by the brand names Xanax, Valium and Ambien, respectively. Licciardi also was charged with witness tampering and ''obstruction of an official proceeding.''

Sharper is jailed in California on charges that he drugged and raped two women there. He also faces sexual assault charges in Arizona. Similar accusations against Sharper in Las Vegas remain under investigation.

Sharper has pleaded not guilty in California, and has denied the other allegations.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans said Licciardi was in federal custody. There was no word on when he would make a first court appearance and no information immediately available on his attorney.

Nunez, who had been released on $400,000 bond after his initial arrest in the case earlier this year, will turn himself in on Monday for arraignment on the grand jury charges, his attorney Jeffrey Smith said. Smith said Nunez is innocent in the case and will seek reduction of his new bond, set Friday at $2.5 million.

He described Nunez as a service industry worker who has worked for Sharper but is not close to the former Saint.

''Unfortunately he's caught up in the sensationalism and politics of this,'' Smith said.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office said Nunez was not in custody as of Friday afternoon. A call to a lawyer who has represented Nunez in the past was not immediately returned.

Sharper's bail in the Louisiana state case was $2.5 million; Licciardi's was $2.9 million.

If convicted of aggravated rape in Louisiana, Sharper, Nunez and Licciardi each could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. Each of the federal counts returned Friday - six against Licciardi and three against Sharper - carry maximum 20-year sentences.

If convicted on the California charges, Sharper could face more than 30 years in state prison.

Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Green Bay Packers as a rookie and was part of a successful championship run while with the New Orleans Saints.

He retired after the 2010 season and was working as an analyst for the NFL Network before being fired after the rape allegations surfaced.

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