NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The final defendant in a drug and rape scheme involving former Saints player Darren Sharper today admitted guilt in open court Friday.
Former St. Bernard deputy Brandon Licciardi has agreed to a 17-year deal, but prosecutors say it could have been much worse.
Licciardi sat in federal court shackled in an orange jumpsuit as he pleaded guilty to a superseding indictment of conspiring to distribute drugs to victims without their knowledge in order to rape them.
"This is as dangerous as it gets. These are very very serious charges, and you're looking at big penalties for a reason," said FOX 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti.
While Licciardi pleaded guilty to one count in federal court, his attorney said he will plead guilty to four counts in state court. The state charges involve one count of forcible rape and three counts of sex trafficking.
"We have to go handle the state portion next week. This is the most unusual case, where a defendant is charged with the same thing in both state and federal court at the same time," said Licciardi's attorney, Ralph Capitelli.
Federal prosecutors said if Licciardi hadn't agreed to the deal, they were prepared to pursue charges against him in four rape cases, where he is accused of helping to drug victims at a bar. Prosecutors said the victims were often slipped drugs like Ambien and "molly."
The factual basis says in one case, "Victim F" remembered nothing that occurred after leaving Jax. It said when she awoke naked in Sharper's condo at 10 a.m., Sharper was on top of her.
"He could have gone to jail fro the rest of his life if he had gone to trial on state or federal," said Raspanti.
Licciardi appeared be near tears through much of the 30-minute hearing, as were members of his family who packed half the courtroom. The judge allowed them some brief time together before Licciardi was sent away to begin serving his 17 years in the federal penitentiary.
"It's extremely difficult and painful, and one of the most painful experiences I've had to go through," Capitelli said.
Licciardi's guilty plea comes four days after co-defendant Erik Nunez pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme, agreeing to a sentence of 10 years.
"The last guy into the prosecutor's office gets the worst deal, and it looks like that's what happened this go-around," said Raspanti.
Lcciardi's guilty plea comes just two days after a jury was selected to try him on the federal charges.
Sharper has already pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and could serve up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.