US & Canada

Ex-NFL star Darren Sharper jailed in rape and drugging case

Darren Sharper with his lawyer at sentencing Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Darren Sharper apologised for his actions

A former American football star has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in a rape case involving as many as 16 women in several US states.

Darren Sharper, who played for the New Orleans Saints, received double the sentence recommended by prosecutors.

The 40-year-old was accused of drugging women in order to rape them.

"I would like to apologise a thousand times,'' he said at the sentencing hearing. "I'm still trying to figure out why I made some of these choices."

His voice quivered as he expressed his regret directly to his parents.

But one of his victims, the only one who spoke at the hearing, attacked him.

"For the list of people you've done this to - go to hell,'' she said.

In a 14-year NFL career which ended in 2011, Sharper also played for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

He played in the Super Bowl in 2010 for the winning Saints, as well as an earlier Super Bowl appearance for the Packers.

US District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, in sentencing Sharper, said: "We can never ignore the damage you inflicted on those women and society at large."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Darren Sharper in court in March 2014

The former footballer had pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans to drugging three women so he could rape them.

He had also pleaded guilty to or not contested charges in state courts in Louisiana, Arizona, California and Nevada arising from allegations that he drugged and raped women.

The victim who spoke in court told him that he kept drugging and raping women in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, even after he knew she was telling investigators about the allegations.

She accused him of giving her and the judicial system "the big middle finger because you thought we weren't capable of stopping you".

According to Sharper's plea agreement, he or his friend Brandon Licciardi put anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives into women's drinks so they could rape them.

Licciardi will be sentenced on 13 October along with a second defendant Erik Nunez.