CHALMETTE, La. - Investigators in the Darren Sharper case are looking at a St. Bernard Parish deputy who reportedly exchanged telephone text messages and images with Sharper around the time a local woman accused the former Saints player of rape.
This development comes as the deputy, Brandon Licciardi, was removed from regular patrol duties last week and placed on desk duty.
The sheriff's office would not elaborate on what prompted Licciardi to be removed from his post in the traffic division and placed in an office job, stripped of his gun and uniform.
Licciardi's attorney, Pat Fanning, acknowledged that his client has been questioned by New Orleans authorities in connection with the Sharper case. Fanning said his client has been fully cooperative from early on in the investigation, which was launched last September when the alleged rape was reported.
Fanning said he doesn't understand the continued interest in his client.
In an interview Monday, Fanning said, "I don't understand it because he's the one who turned over the phone with the video and text messages. He's been a cooperating witness."
Social media posts by Licciardi show connections with some Saints players, but none of his activities drew more attention than his very public connection to a former Saints cheerleader. Licciardi made national news in 2009 after proposing marriage to a then-Saintsation during halftime of a pre-season game in the Superdome.
While an arrest warrant has been issued for Sharper on two counts of aggravated rape in New Orleans, he has not been formally charged by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office.
An alleged co-defendant, Erik Nunez, was arrested and booked on the same aggravated rape charges, before being released after posting a $400,000 bail.
Attorneys for Nunez, a self-described NFL promoter and waiter at a local steak restaurant, say their client is innocent.
The New Orleans allegations follow the same pattern as rape complaints made against Sharper in three other cities: the former All-Pro defensive back is accused of meeting his alleged victims at nightclubs, inviting them to party with him at an apartment or hotel room, then knocking them out with cocktails laced with the sleeping drug Ambien.
According to police reports, Sharper allegedly raped the women after they blacked out from the effects of the drug.
Sharper is being held without bond in Los Angeles County jail as he awaits trial on two rape charges there. He also has been formally charged in two rapes in Tempe, Arizona.
The New Orleans allegations, along with another rape complaint in Las Vegas, remain under investigation.
The Louisiana complaint of aggravated rape is among the most serious made against Sharper. If convicted, he faces mandatory life sentences without any chance for parole.
Sharper is scheduled to appear in court in Los Angeles on July 16 for a preliminary hearing in the California case, where he faces as many as 30 years in prison for rape and drug charges.