Sharper indicted in Arizona on sexual assaults, druggings

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 6:30 AM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mikeperlstein

NEW ORLEANS -- Darren Sharper was indicted on sexual assault and drug charges by an Arizona grand jury Wednesday, adding to legal problems facing the former Saints player and accused serial rapist.

Sharper’s attorney was served an indictment outlining two counts of sexual assault and three counts of administering dangerous drugs to others, according to a spokesman for the Maricopa County District Attorney’s office.

The five felony counts come on top of two rape charges and five drug count charges Sharper is already facing in Los Angeles.

In addition, the New Orleans Police Department issued an arrest warrant for Sharper in connection to two alleged rapes in the Warehouse District, although the district attorney’s office has not lodged formal charges. Authorities in two other cities – Las Vegas and Miami – continue to investigate similar allegations.

In the Tempe, Arizona case, a 27-page police report outlines what could be the strongest allegations facing the former All-Pro safety. Maricopa County prosecutors issued the charges Wednesday in the form of a no-bond indictment, meaning that Sharper could be held without bail indefinitely.

Sharper has been jailed in Los Angeles since Feb. 27, when he surrendered in response to an arrest warrant issued by the New Orleans Police Department.

But Los Angeles Judge Renee Korn scheduled a hearing on Thursday, stating that if New Orleans authorities didn’t formally charge Sharper by that deadline, she was inclined to release him on his previous $1 million bond and home confinement.

The Arizona case may change all that, providing Los Angeles prosecutors with ammunition to request a bail increase or detention.

WWL-TV legal analyst Chick Foret said the stakes have been raised dramatically for Sharper.

“So the DA's office in Los Angeles, I anticipate, will argue, 'Judge, we now have a new ball game because of the Arizona charges. We now want the original request that we asked for, the $10-million dollar bond,’ “ Foret said.

Another alternative is extradition to Arizona, where Sharper would be arraigned and face a separate bail hearing in that jurisdiction.

Foret said the Arizona case may prove to be the strongest case against Sharper among the five states investigating almost identical complaints: that Sharper partied with women at nightclubs, invited them back to his room, served them cocktails that knocked them out, then raped them.

The Arizona police report details Sharper hitting nightclubs with female friends on Nov. 20, taking them back to an apartment, then allegedly giving them drinks laced with a sleeping drug that goes by the commercial name Ambien.

In a court motion, Los Angeles prosecutors stated that a shot glass confiscated by police in Tempe tested positive for Ambien.

“It appears that Arizona may have the strongest case,” Foret said. “Because we know in Arizona there are multiple shot glasses that were retrieved from the apartment. We know that there was a crime lab report indicating that there were positive reports for Ambien.”

The Arizona report goes on to say that a doorman witnessed one of the victims struggling out of a cab. He told police she was “stumbling, gagging, dry heaving, bend over and spitting/throwing up in the outside trash can.”

The two alleged victims told police they woke up the next day suspecting they'd been sexually assaulted in the same apartment. A third victim said she saw a nude Sharper assaulting one of her friends.

“She was taken [a]back by what she saw and stood there for awhile wondering if she should intervene. She reported being concerned that the sexual act was not consensual because she did not know [if the victim] was awake,” according to the report.

A third victim says she took a shot of alcohol and then locked her bedroom door, telling police, “She felt she had been possibly drugged after having that one shot from Sharper ... had not had anything and was very weak and disoriented from that one shot.”

The police report describes how Sharper was confronted by the victims after the alleged sexual assaults, but he claimed ignorance.

It now appears that Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro is comfortable waiting for the Arizona and California cases to play out before pushing the local case.

In an exclusive interview with WWL-TV, Cannizzaro said his office is not ready to bring the New Orleans case to a grand jury, and is in no hurry to do so.

“We're not in a position at this time to bring any formal charges against him,” Cannizzaro said. “At least we're not going to be able to do that by Thursday. Under the law for aggravated rape, there is no statute of limitations since the penalty for aggravated rape is life in prison.”

A co-defendant in the New Orleans case, Sharper acquaintance Erik Nunez, was released from jail early Tuesday morning after posting a $400,000 bond. The New Orleans case is being investigated as an aggravated rape because there were allegedly two perpetrators – Sharper and Nunez.

While the local case is not on a fast track, Cannizzaro expressed confidence that it is a solid case. And while the investigation continues, convictions in other cities could bolster case against Sharper by allowing local prosecutors to establish a pattern of criminal behavior.

“I think we have a very good case, without going into the allegations specifically,” Cannizzaro said. “I also think you have to consider that we have the right to consider the cases that are taking place in California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida.”

Sharper's New Orleans attorney, Nandi Campbell, said it appears the timing of the Arizona indictment is a ploy to keep her client behind bars.

"It looks like Los Angeles is using these other jurisdictions like a puppet to try and keep him locked up without bail," Campbell said. "The timing of this Arizona indictment, right before his court hearing in L.A., is not a coincidence."

Campbell said Sharper continues to maintain his innocence and looks forward to "defending himself in each and every jurisdiction where he is facing charges." She said there has been no evidence to indicate that her client is a flight risk or danger to the community as he awaits his day in court.

"Bail is not meant as a punishment," she said, "It is meant to ensure a defendant's appearance in court. Darren Sharper has done everything asked of him and has a right to make bail as he defends himself."

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