Sharper gets 9 years for sex assaults

By Brian Melley and Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press
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Former Green Bay Packers safety Darren Sharper during a court appearance last year in Los Angeles.

Removing any doubt that he drugged and raped women, former Green Bay Packers star Darren Sharper has taken the first of several steps to own up to sexual assaults in four states that will send him to prison for about nine years.

In separate court cases on Monday, Sharper pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California to raping two women he knocked out with a potent sedative mixed with booze. He is scheduled to make a similar plea on Tuesday in Nevada via video conference and faces a hearing in New Orleans in the next month.

In each state, he's accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women when they were unconscious or otherwise unable to resist or consent.

The pleas came as Los Angeles prosecutors prepared to present evidence of Sharper's fall from grace as a former All-Pro safety who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. His clean-cut reputation took a hit when women began telling police in several cities similar stories of blacking out while drinking with him and waking up groggy to find they had been sexually abused.

Defense lawyers previously said the sexual intercourse was consensual. One lawyer had said Sharper didn't mix the drinks.

But Sharper, 39, wielded no defense in court on Monday. Wearing a striped, light blue suit, he said it was in his best interest to enter the pleas.

By not contesting the California charges, he acknowledged raping two women he drugged after meeting them at a West Hollywood bar. The pleas have the same effect as a conviction.

Both encounters were eerily similar.

In October 2013, Sharper invited a woman and her friend to go to a party but stopped on the way to get something at his Century City hotel and invited them upstairs.

He insisted they drink a shot, and they blacked out. One woman awoke to Sharper sexually assaulting her.

The women were not in court, but prosecutors said they had agreed to the plea.

Under the unusual deal negotiated by Sharper's lawyers and state and federal prosecutors, Sharper will serve sentences concurrently in federal prison, though the full term has not yet been announced.

He was sentenced to nine years in the Arizona case and will face 20 years in the California case when sentenced July 15. However, because the crimes in California only require serving half the term and he gets credit for 13 months spent in jail, he'll serve about nine more years, lawyers said.

The sentence is no slap on the wrist, but it spares Sharper a potentially longer term if sentences involving at least nine alleged victims were added together and allows him to avoid notoriously rough state prisons, said Jeffery Rubenstein, a former Los Angeles prosecutor.

"This could have gotten really ugly, and very likely this guy would have never seen the light of day," said Rubenstein, who didn't work on the case.

From the prosecution standpoint, victims were saved from reliving the event through testimony and having their credibility questioned by a seasoned team of defense lawyers, Rubenstein said.

Sharper was the Packers' second-round pick in the 1997 NFL draft. He played for the Packers through the 2004 season, then spent four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and two with the Saints.

Billeaud reported from Phoenix.

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