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Darren Sharper pleads no contest in Los Angeles rape case

Former NFL safety Darren Sharper, left, with his attorney Leonard Levine appear in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. Sharper was sentenced to nine years in federal prison Monday immediately after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman in Arizona, marking the first change of plea of the day for the former safety accused of drugging and assaulting women in four states. [Associated Press] 
Former NFL safety Darren Sharper, left, with his attorney Leonard Levine appear in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. Sharper was sentenced to nine years in federal prison Monday immediately after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman in Arizona, marking the first change of plea of the day for the former safety accused of drugging and assaulting women in four states. [Associated Press] 
Published Mar. 24, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Former NFL star Darren Sharper removed all doubt Monday that he drugged and raped women, taking the first of several legal steps to own up to sex assaults in four states that will send him to federal prison for about nine years.

In two separate cases, Sharper pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California to raping two women he knocked out with a potent sedative mixed with booze.

Sharper, 39, said it was in his best interest to enter the pleas.

The hearings came as Los Angeles prosecutors were prepared to present evidence of Sharper's fall from grace as a former All-Pro safety who won a Super Bowl with the Saints. His clean reputation took a hit when women began telling police in several cities similar stories of blacking out while drinking with him and waking up groggy to find they had been sexually abused.

By not contesting the California charges, he admitted he raped two women he drugged after meeting them at a West Hollywood bar, the first in October 2013 and the second in January 2014. The pleas have the same effect as a conviction.

The women were not in court, but prosecutors said they had agreed to the plea deal.

Under the unusual deal negotiated by Shaper's lawyers and state and federal prosecutors, Sharper will serve his sentences concurrently in a federal prison, though the full term has not yet been announced.

He was immediately sentenced to nine years in the Arizona case and will face 20 years in the California case when sentenced July 15. However, because the crimes he committed in California require that he only serve half the prison term — and with credit for the 13 months he's spent in jail — he'll spend about nine more years behind bars, lawyers said.

He had faced up to 33 years in prison if convicted of all counts against him in California, though he would probably have served half of that time.

Jeffery Rubenstein, a former Los Angeles prosecutor, said the sentence is no slap on the wrist, but does spare Sharper much longer, harder time, particularly if served in state prisons that are notoriously rougher than federal penitentiaries.

Hearings will follow in Las Vegas today and in New Orleans in the next month. In each state, he's accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women when they were unconscious or otherwise unable to resist or consent.

Sharper's arrest came a few years after his 14-year NFL career ended in 2011. He was working as an analyst for the NFL Network at the time.

Sharper, who has been jailed since February 2014 in L.A., appeared in a Phoenix courtroom by videoconferencing and admitted he sexually assaulted one woman and tried to attack another in suburban Phoenix in 2013. Police said he drugged three women and sexually assaulted two of them at a Tempe apartment in November 2013.

In the California case, he pleaded no contest to four counts of furnishing zolpidem, a controlled substance sold under the brand name Ambien.