It was baffling that Darren Sharper’s plea deal, for pleading guilty to drugging and raping women in four different states, amounted to just nine years of prison time. It was baffling that the NFL safety turned serial rapist could have been a free man by 2023, and it was baffling that the feds, with seemingly so much evidence in so many different venues, would ever offer it. Turns out your instincts were correct: it wasn’t legal.
At a hearing in New Orleans yesterday, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo rejected the plea on the grounds that it falls significantly below federal sentencing guidelines, which mandate 15-20 years. Nine years, Milazzo said, is “inappropriate.”
“This court cannot accept this plea agreement,” she said to a standing Sharper, who wore an orange jumpsuit.
Sharper pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault against nine different women, and according to a sealed pre-sentencing report, was also accused of assaulting seven others. There’s also a federal drug case pending. Yet somehow, Sharper’s attorneys were able to get a plea bargain in which he would serve all his sentences concurrently. That’s off the table.
The ball is in Sharper’s court now. Under federal law he can withdraw his guilty pleas if he chooses. At yesterday’s hearing, his attorney asked for more time to consider that decision—time that will likely be spent working out another plea agreement, hopefully one that carries a more appropriate sentence.