NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Just hours before his trial was set to begin, Erik Nunez, a co-defendant in the Darren Sharper sexual assault and drug case, pleaded guilty Monday to a lesser charge.
"It's not surprising that he takes a deal because this happens often," FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti said. "I think he came to the conclusion that it was in his best interest to take this plea, and possibly cooperate with the government against his co-defendant, Mr. Liccardi.
Nunez, a former steakhouse waiter from Metairie, pleaded guilty to the distribution of drugs with the intent to commit sexual battery. He was originally accused of more serious offenses, including both federal and state charges.
According to the deal, Nunez agreed to serve 10 years in prison concurrently for both the federal and state crimes, but a federal judge has not yet signed off on the agreement.
"I think the sentence is reasonable. I don't think it's too far one way or the other for what I would expect for those types of charges," Raspanti said.
If the judge rejects the deal, he'll be given the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and face trial. Raspanti said Nunez will likely testify against co-defendant Brandon Liccardi.
Liccardi is charged with entering into a conspiracy with Sharper and Nunez to distribute drugs with the intent to commit rape and two counts of witness tampering. Liccardi has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty.
"I think Mr. Liccardi has always planned to go to trial, and I think because he's the last man standing, it would probably be less likely he'll have anything left on the table. The feds have a stronger case now because they now have Mr. Nunez testifying," Raspanti said.
Liccardi, dressed in a suit, took his own notes in court as potential jurors were interviewed. His trial is expected to last about two weeks.