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Ex-NFL star Darren Sharper sentenced to 18 years in prison for drugging and raping women in four states

Retired NFL star Darren Sharper, convicted of drugging and raping nine women in Los Angeles, Nevada, Arizona and Louisiana, was sentenced to 18 years in prison Thursday by a federal judge in New Orleans.

Sharper, 41, had previously pleaded guilty or no contest to drugging and sexually assaulting nine women, although a judge said Thursday that he had as many as 16 victims. Sharper had initially struck a plea deal in which he would have served nine years in prison, but the judge in New Orleans rejected the deal earlier this year, saying the sentence failed to reflect the seriousness of the assaults,

“We can never ignore the damage you inflicted on those women and society at large,” U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said Thursday. In addition to prison time, Sharper was fined $20,000.

The former football player was first arrested in Los Angeles on Jan, 17, 2014, on suspicion of sexual assault. After that, women in other cities came forward and alleged they were victims of similar attacks.

Sharper had pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of distributing drugs with rape as the aim. He and another man put drugs or sedatives into women's drinks so they could rape them, according to the plea deal.  

“I would like to apologize a thousand times,” Sharper said. “I’m still trying to figure out why I made some of these choices.”

Milazzo gave Sharper close to the the maximum 19½-year sentence she could have imposed. As part of his new plea agreement, Sharper will cooperate with federal investigation of two accomplices in the New Orleans crimes -- Brandon Licciardi and Erik Nunez. Both have pleaded guilty to charges related to the attacks.

One victim told the court that Sharper kept drugging and raping women even after she went to authorities. “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.”

Sharper, a defensive back, was voted All-Pro six times and played in five Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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