Sharper in New Orleans for plea deal on rape charges

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Convicted of sex-assault charges in three states as the result of guilty or no-contest pleas, former NFL star Darren Sharper entered a federal courtroom in New Orleans on Monday to answer charges that he drugged women with the intention of raping them.

Sharper entered a formal plea of not guilty before a federal magistrate judge but that was considered a legal formality. He has already pleaded guilty to state charges in Nevada and Arizona and no-contest - tantamount to a guilty plea - in California. When a multi-jurisdiction plea agreement was announced last month the district attorney in New Orleans, where Sharper faced state and federal charges, said he was expected to plead guilty in Louisiana as well.

Monday's hearing was before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan. Felony guilty pleas cannot be accepted in the magistrate court during initial appearances. Sharper, shackled and wearing orange coveralls, answered questions and entered his plea. His attorneys did not seek bond. A June 8 trial date was set. It was unclear whether a hearing would be held ahead of that date. Attorneys declined comment as they left the courthouse.

Sharper also is set for arraignment Tuesday on state charges, including aggravated rape, at the criminal courthouse in New Orleans.

Sharper has been jailed since charges were filed in Los Angeles in early 2014. He will spend at least another nine years in prison.

Sharper, 39, was a safety who had nine interceptions during the Saints' 2009 season, which ended with a Super Bowl victory in February 2010. He retired after the 2010 season and was working as an analyst for the NFL Network before being fired when the rape allegations surfaced.

The federal indictment in Louisiana charged Sharper and another man with distributing the drugs alprazolam, diazepam and zolpidem - more commonly known by the brand names Xanax, Valium and Ambien, respectively - with the intent to commit rape.

The two Louisiana state counts of aggravated rape stemmed from accusations that he sexually assaulted two drug-impaired women at his apartment in September 2013.

Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times during a career that included stints with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and the 2010 Saints victory game.

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