Appeal by ex-NFL star Sharper continues in drug, rape case

October 11, 2019

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Imprisoned former NFL star Darren Sharper is pressing on with his attempts to reduce his 18-year federal sentence in a sexual assault case.

An on-again-off-again appeal was revived Friday at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It follows a U.S. district judge's August rejection of Sharper's argument that he was not adequately advised by his previous lawyers on the consequences of his 2015 guilty plea to conspiracy and drug charges involving his drugging of two women so he could rape them. His sentencing judge said similar allegations involve as many as 16 victims in four states.

Sharper's August appeal was tossed out for failure to pay a court fee. However, the case was reopened Friday because earlier notices from the court to Sharper's appellate lawyers had gone to the wrong address.

Sharper, a defensive back who was part of the Saints team that won the 2010 Super Bowl, retired from the league in 2011. He was working as an NFL network analyst when women in several cities began telling police they had blacked out while drinking with him and woke up groggy to discover they had been sexually assaulted.

After he was arrested and jailed in Los Angeles in 2014, he initially fought charges. As allegations and criminal charges mounted, a "global" plea deal involving the federal court in New Orleans and state courts in Louisiana, Arizona, California and Nevada was announced. The deal was expected to result in Sharper spending about nine years in prison.

But U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo rejected the sentence as too light. She gave Sharper the option of withdrawing his plea. After he decided to maintain the plea, Milazzo sentenced him to 18 years and four months in 2016.

In August, Milazzo rejected appellate attorneys' arguments that Sharper didn't understand the consequences of the plea. In reasons accompanying her order, Milazzo said Sharper had twice said in open court that he understood the terms of his plea agreement.

Sharper's 14-year NFL career also included stints with the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.

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