The name Darren Sharper may still be more familiar to fans of the NFL than those interested in following criminal cases, but the pendulum is likely swinging the other way now after the former defensive back was sentenced to 18 years in prison for drugging and raping nine different women in Los Angeles, Nevada, Arizona, and Louisiana.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo gave Sharper close to the maximum 19.5-year sentence possible, which also carries a $20,000 fine. Back in February, Milazzo rejected a proposal that would have handed out a nine-year sentence to Sharper, calling it too lenient given the seriousness of the allegations.
This accepted plea agreement includes Darren Sharper’s cooperation with federal investigators in the cases against his accomplices in the New Orleans crimes, Brandon Licciardi and Erik Nunez. Both of them have already pleaded guilty.
A seemingly remorseful Darren Sharper addressed the court in shackles and orange inmate attire, with tears in his eyes. “I would like to apologize a thousand times to plaintiffs in this case for making them victims,” Sharper told the federal court in New Orleans. “They didn’t deserve anything, or to be a part of this heinous decision, which is all on me.”
But the story gets even more difficult to stomach when one learns that Sharper, a man who seemed like a dedicated father and family man on the outside, worked with the NFL in the league’s campaign against violence. Sharper posed for a photo with an arm around his daughter that appeared in NFL Dads Dedicated to Daughters. This book was created by the NFL and A Call to Men, a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of domestic and sexual violence.
“My daughter makes me mindful of how women are treated: undervalued and exploited,” Sharper wrote in the book. “Which is why I feel compelled to take advantage of this opportunity to speak up about domestic violence.”
It’s the double-life of Darren Sharper that should disturb people the most. While he was working for NFL Network as an analyst, Sharper was taking away the rights of different women in cities all over the country with his complete indifference toward their well-being and freedom.
Many criminals display contradictory behavior, but this complete 180-degree turn by Darren Sharper is one of the more startling in recent memory. Perhaps one has to go back to O.J. Simpson to recall a beloved athlete who thought he was so blatantly above the law that his actions could never possibly catch up to him.
What’s really troubling about this entire ordeal is not just his habitual disregard for fellow human beings, but the hypocrisy Sharper seemingly exuded throughout his criminal run. Fans in New Orleans loved Darren Sharper for being a part of the team that brought the city its first NFL championship. The former defensive back said it best himself when he addressed the court and said: “I’m still trying to figure out why I made some of these choices.”
“We can never ignore the damage you inflicted on those women and society at large,” Judge Milazzo said to Sharper during his sentencing.
And that’s the biggest issue here—the victims.
The only victim present addressed the court and Darren Sharper with a powerful message. “Within days… you gave me… and the entire judicial system in Louisiana the big middle finger because you thought we weren’t capable of stopping you,” she said. “You continued to rape other women in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas. For the list of people you’ve done this to: Go to hell.”
As heroic as Sharper may have been to the people of New Orleans once upon a time, his fall from grace has been deserved. Darren Sharper displayed a complete disregard for others, and he’s lucky not to be sitting in a cage for the rest of his life.
[Photo by Nick Ut-Pool/Getty Images]