- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The two co-defendants in the drug and rape case that brought down one-time NFL star Darren Sharper were formally sentenced Thursday to lengthy prison terms - after hearing blistering condemnations from two of their victims in open court.

Brandon Licciardi, a former suburban sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison; former restaurant worker Erik Nunez was sentenced to 10 years. Both pleaded guilty to state and federal charges that they drugged women so that they, and Sharper, could rape them. Prosecutors said in court documents that the case involved multiple women assaulted on various dates in 2013.

Both accomplices apologized. Nunez read a statement rapidly and sometimes unintelligibly. “I’ve always respected women and held them in high regard,” he said at one point.

More emotional, Licciardi spoke haltingly, telling one victim, “I made a terrible decision to leave you in the hands of a monster,” an apparent reference to Sharper.

Sharper has pleaded guilty or no-contest to drug and sexual assault cases in Louisiana and three other states. He filed a federal appeal after being sentenced to 18 years.

Unmoved by the men’s apologies, the victims who spoke in court Thursday described the emotional turmoil they felt after realizing they had been raped while incapacitated.

One accused the defendants of being star-struck by Sharper and his athlete friends, and said Licciardi “set me up to be drugged and raped.”

“You both steamrolled whoever was in your way to become best friends with these people,” this woman added.

The other woman said she has dealt with bouts of depression and low self-worth since being attacked by Nunez and Sharper.

Licciardi and Nunez each pleaded guilty in federal court this year to a single count of participating in a conspiracy to distribute drugs with the intent to commit rape. In state court, where both are expected to receive the same sentences next week, Licciardi pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and forcible rape. Nunez pleaded guilty to sexual battery.

During a 14-year NFL career, Sharper played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and one with New Orleans Saints when they won in 2010. He retired in 2011 and was working as a broadcast NFL analyst when allegations that he drugged and raped women began to surface.

Under a deal that was expected to net him about nine years in prison, Sharper pleaded guilty or no-contest in state and federal courts to charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted women in Arizona, California, Nevada and Louisiana - all part of a multistate “global” plea deal announced in early 2015.

But U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, saying there were as many as 16 victims in the four states, rejected the sentence as too light. That led to his 18-year federal sentence, followed by a 20-year state sentence that attorneys said was essentially the same given state and federal sentencing practices and credit for time served.

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