February 03, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Federal court papers state that former NFL star Darren Sharper has renewed plea negotiations with federal prosecutors and is preparing a trial defense - which could indicate that his plea agreement in a drug and sexual assault case is off.

Wednesday's motions, filed jointly by prosecutors and Sharper's lawyers, seek a delay in a March 7 federal trial date originally set not for Sharper but for his two co-defendants: Brandon Licciardi and Eric Nunez.

Attorneys on all sides declined comment.

Sharper had pleaded guilty as part of a deal involving charges in four states, but a federal judge deferred acceptance of the deal last year. He also has pleaded guilty or no-contest to similar charges in state courts in California, Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana.

''Recent developments in this case have led to a resumption of plea negotiations and, prior to that, neither party expected Mr. Sharper to go to trial,'' the joint motion states. ''The change in case posture, however, has now dictated that the defendant and the prosecution must now prepare for a more complex trial. This means that the Government will, at this point, have to prepare over a dozen new witnesses from several other states to testify and, concomitantly, Mr. Sharper must prepare to defend against them.''

The documents do not spell out what the ''recent developments'' are. Under the plea agreement, Sharper was expected to receive a prison sentence of about nine years, although a 20-year sentence was possible. It was unclear whether the judge in any of the other jurisdictions objected to the sentence or whether some other development led to Wednesday's motion.

Attorneys for Licciardi and Nunez declined comment. The court record shows that both oppose a delay in the March 7 trial.

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

The federal indictment charged Sharper 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.

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 New Orleans Saints victory.

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