Orleans DA: Sharper's deal 'not sweetheart'

Orleans DA: Sharper's deal 'not sweetheart'

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On Tuesday, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro defended his plea deal with Darren Sharper after getting scrutinized by the public defender's office.

"When people say it's a sweetheart deal, I'm not quite sure I would agree with that," Cannizzaro said.

He continued to stand by his deal with the former NFL star as he cooperates with the investigations into the other people possibly involved with the scheme to drug and rape women.

The investigations include former St. Bernard sheriff's deputy Brandon Licciardi.

"All the facts that we have gathered up to this point, I think I feel very comfortable in saying that (Sharper) was certainly not the worse of these defendants," Cannizzaro said. "He may be the most popular but considering all of the conduct and all of the actions, he was certainly not the worst."

On Monday, Sharper pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible rape and one count of simple rape. As a part of a global deal including other charges in Arizona, California and Nevada, Sharper will serve nine years in an Arizona prison and be on parole for life.

But the public defender's office feels Sharper's deal was made only because of his fame and notoriety.

"Our impression of that deal is that those sweetheart deals are not being offered to other individuals that come through the court system - individuals that we represent," Chief Deputy Defender Jee Park said.

She said state law mandates that anyone convicted of a sex crime must serve out his or her entire sentence. Sharper faced life and a minimum of 40 years in Louisiana.

Park believes the deal is unfair because she said her clients do not get deals like Sharper's, especially if they involve violent crimes against women.

"I'm sure Mr. Sharper's stature in society, his fame and fortune did play a roll in getting him that deal," Park said.

Cannizzaro said that for the next 20 years, if Sharper does not cooperate or if he violates parole, the state has the right to take Sharper's guilty plea off the table and try him for his admitted rape charges.

Sharper's lifetime parole in Arizona also means he cannot use a computer or cell phone for the rest of his life, as well as many other conditions.

"He can never travel more than 50 miles away from his home. He cannot consume any alcoholic beverages. He cannot appear in a bar. He is going to be under electronic monitoring for the rest of his life. If he violates any of those conditions, he's required to go back to jail," Cannizzaro said.

But Park argued a lifetime in the luxury of his home is better than a lifetime in Angola.

"Sure, he doesn't get to use a cell phone or maybe other restrictions but he's at home with his family," Park said. "That is markedly different from what our clients face by going to Angola and being separated from everything."

If Sharper violates his parole after the 20 years he's on the hook in Louisiana, he could be sent to prison in Arizona again for an additional 14 years.

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