NEW ORLEANS - Making clear that she thought the sentence was a light one, a Louisiana judge Thursday formally imposed a 20-year prison sentence on former NFL star Darren Sharper, who last week was sentenced by a federal judge to 18 years and four months in a drug and rape case with victims in four states.
Defense attorney Billy Gibbens said the two sentences are essentially the same, when credit for time served and other factors are considered. The sentence follows Sharper's guilty pleas in state and federal courts in New Orleans, and pleas of guilty or no contest to similar charges in Arizona, California and Nevada — all the result of a multi-jurisdiction plea deal that once called for a sentence of about nine years.
Early this year, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo rejected that sentence as too light. She imposed the 18-year, four-month sentence last week.
In state court on Thursday, Judge Karen Herman made clear she thought two decades was a relatively light punishment for the fallen NFL star, calling his behavior "such an epic disappointment."
Thursday's second sentencing hearing was again punctuated by tearful testimony from victims. One who said she was determined from the time she realized she had been raped in 2013 to see him prosecuted and see him branded as "a serial rapist and a sex offender." She added that, for months, she woke up screaming in the middle of the night because of the ordeal.
Another said she forgave Sharper, despite suffering through depression and fears that have caused her to miss work and withdraw emotionally from people who care about her. "I'm afraid no one understands," she said.
Herman pointedly told Sharper that had he been tried by a jury and convicted on his original charges, including aggravated rape, the sentence would have been much harsher. She accepted the 20-year sentence only after consulting with attorneys and victims. She said the deal would help bring closure to the victims.
Sharper again apologized to his victims and their families and continued to ask for forgiveness, at one point telling the judge, "I am not a monster."
Sentenced to nine years already in Arizona, Sharper still faces formal sentencing in California and Nevada. He is expected to serve his sentence in federal custody.
Sharper had two co-defendants in the Louisiana cases. Former restaurant worker Erik Nunez and former St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Deputy Branden Licciardi are set for sentencing in October on related charges.
Sharper was named 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 one with New Orleans Saints when they won in 2010.
He ended a 14-year career in 2011. He was working as an NFL network analyst 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.