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Darren Sharper waits to see if judge will approve federal plea deal

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Former New Orleans Saints standout Darren Sharper waits to see if a federal judge will accept his latest plea deal.

On Friday, Sharper, 39, walked into a second-floor courtroom on Camp Street wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Soon after pleaded guilty to three felony federal charges, he could be heard in soft tones answering Judge Triche Milazzo's questions about the plea he was entering.

"Yes, ma'am," Sharper said at times when questioned by the judge.

Outside court, Sharper's attorney said little. When asked how Sharper was feeling about what transpired in court, attorney Kyle Schonekas said, “He entered into the agreement."

Federal prosecutors refused to comment to reporters, but in court spoke up for the plea deal they struck with Sharper and his legal team.

What Sharper took ownership of is spelled out in a six-page superseding indictment. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute a Schedule IV controlled substance with the intent to commit rape, and two counts of distribution of a controlled substance with the intent to commit rape.

In court, prosecutors recommended to the judge a sentence of 108 months, or nine years.

"It seems to fall in the neighborhood of what everybody is trying to have him plea,” said FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.

The nine-year recommendation is significant because it's in line with the time Sharper is expected to spend behind bars as part of a global plea deal involving similar allegations by prosecutors in four states, including Louisiana.

"And that is why the U.S. attorney took it upon himself to hoist upon the court a number suggested as to his penalty,” Raspanti said.

State prosecutors accuse Sharper of drugging his victims before raping them. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty or no contest to charges in Arizona, California and Nevada. In state court in New Orleans, Sharper faces allegations he raped three women.

Criminal Court Judge Karen Herman recently put off Sharper's expected guilty plea in connection with the alleged New Orleans rapes, saying she wanted the federal case to be disposed of first.

“Judge Herman can delay hers until after that, they can play chicken all they want, but at the end of the day somebody is going to go before somebody else and what I'm telling you is that last judge is the one who gets the final say-so,” said Raspanti.

As far as the trio of federal charges Sharper pleaded guilty to, if he opted for trial and were convicted, he would face a maximum of 20 years for each count and fines of $250,000 for each.

Judge Milazzo did not sign off on the federal plea agreement Friday, saying she wanted to review Sharper's pre-sentence report before deciding on his sentence.

"I've been there before when different judges want to have their say and do not want to be followed by somebody else, so we'll see how this goes,” Raspanti said.

The judge will hold another hearing Aug. 20, during which she is expected to sentence Sharper.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite's office said Sharper's plea was part of the global resolution of the charges against him.

Former St. Bernard Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Licciardi awaits trial on the same charges, as well as allegations of witness tampering and impeding an official proceeding, according to Polite's office.

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