NEW ORLEANS - Just when the legal situation couldn’t get any worse for former Saints defensive back and accused serial rapist Darren Sharper, they have.
Sharper is now back behind bars in Los Angeles and could soon be returning to New Orleans to face two charges of aggravated rape, the most serious rape charges filed against him so far.
Sharper was already on house arrest in Los Angeles last night when he turned himself in to California authorities to respond to a New Orleans arrest warrant issued Thursday.
The warrant details two counts of aggravated rape against Sharper, 38, and a co-defendant, Erik Nunez, 26. Both stand accused of raping two women in the morning hours of Sept. 23 at a room where Sharper was staying in the Warehouse District.
Nunez is a Grace King High School graduate who worked as an event coordinator for Sharper in New Orleans, according to his attorney Jeffrey Smith.
After surrendering at the District Attorney’s office Friday morning, Nunez was ordered held without bail until a court hearing on March 7. Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell granted the motion to hold Nunez without bail at the request of prosecutors, who described Nunez as a flight risk.
And now that Sharper is back behind bars, he could remain locked up until he returns to New Orleans to answer to the local case. Local police are planning to go to Los Angeles after Mardi Gras to attempt to extradite the former pro bowl safety.
There is no indication of whether prosecutors would also seek to hold Sharper without bond. A spokesman for the DA’s office declined comment on the case Friday.
Aggravated rape is the most serious level of rape under Louisiana. If convicted, Sharper and Nunez face mandatory life sentences without any chance for parole.
Two rape charges in Los Angeles, as well as sexual assault complaints still under investigation in three other states, include allegations that Sharper knocked his victims out by slipping drugs into their drinks.
The drugging claim has not been lodged in the New Orleans case, but the allegations escalated from simple rape to aggravated rape under a legal provision based on the investigation showing that there was more than one offender.
“Based upon the information that we have today, the aggravating factor as it relates to Darren Sharper and Erik Nunez is that there were two offenders,” WWL-TV legal analyst Chick Foret said.
Foret said one looming question is what level of bail will prosecutors request against Sharper when he returns to answer to the New Orleans charges? Or, similar to Nunez, will they ask for Sharper to be held without bail?
Sharper already posted a $1 million bond in Los Angeles, where bail conditions include house arrest and a prohibition against going into any nightclubs.
“He’s now going to have a substantial bond Orleans Parish,” Foret said. “If new charges come forward, how much money does Darren Sharper have to keep funding his bond?”
In court Friday, Smith vigorously protested Cantrell’s order to hold Nunez without bail pending the March 7 hearing.
“He is not a flight risk,” Smith argued. “He has no record. He lives in New Orleans. His mother and father live here. He has two brothers here in court.”
Smith said his client is innocent, noting that no DNA evidence has been presented showing that Nunez had any contact with the two alleged victims.
“They’re going to keep this innocent man in jail for seven days without the ability to make bond,” said Smith, who indicated he would file an emergency appeal to try to lift the detention order.
Sharper’s local attorney, Nandi Campbell, did not return calls for comment.