Sharper extradition hearing delayed; N.O. charges sought

Darren Sharper and Erik Nunez, both arrested last week on suspicion of raping two women in the Warehouse District last fall, remained jailed late Friday, but just how much longer each man might stay locked up was uncertain.

A Los Angeles judge set a March 13 deadline for Orleans Parish prosecutors to charge former Saints star Sharper with the alleged incidents, saying he cannot be held indefinitely on a warrant New Orleans police issued for him.

Earlier in the day, a magistrate judge at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court ordered a $400,000 bail for Nunez after prosecutors said DNA evidence linked him to one of the alleged victims.

Sharper has pleaded not guilty in a California case, in which he has been charged with drugging and raping two women at separate times. He was free on $1 million bail there until the New Orleans warrant was issued.

He surrendered Feb. 27 and has been jailed without bail since then.

Court documents in Los Angeles state that Sharper, who is the subject of rape investigations in five states, has submitted DNA samples to the NOPD and agreed to turn himself in if he is charged in New Orleans.

“To hold him into perpetuity on an arrest warrant seems to be grotesquely unfair,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Renee Korn said.

The judge set a hearing for 8:30 a.m. Thursday PDT to give Orleans Parish prosecutors time to charge Sharper or for Gov. Bobby Jindal to seek his return through what is known as a governor’s extradition warrant.

The arrest warrant New Orleans police issued last week says detectives learned from witnesses that Sharper and an associate acknowledged having nonconsensual sex with two women.

Sharper’s attorneys say he never made such statements and the arrest warrant was a pretext to hold him indefinitely without bail.

Prosecutors, however, said they were following the law.

Chris Bowman, a spokesman for New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, said he could not comment on whether Sharper would be charged before the Thursday deadline set by Korn.

“It’s an open investigation,” Bowman said. “I’m not going to comment on it. I’m not going to put a timetable on it.”

Friday was the first time Nunez was able to face a judge since he was arrested a week earlier.

Prosecutors had sought, and obtained, a delay in his bail hearing, claiming he was a flight risk because he worked for the New Orleans Saints.

That claim was inaccurate, but it was among the reasons the DA’s office requested a $1 million bond — $500,000 on each rape count — for Nunez.

Assistant District Attorney David Pipes said that after the warrant was issued for Nunez, he contacted at least one victim as an “act of intimidation” and that DNA evidence he provided to police during an interview last year linked him to one of the victims.

Prosecutors said they were not sure if Nunez was a flight risk because they did not know what he did for a living but that he purportedly told neighbors he was employed by the Saints or planned events for the NFL.

“We don’t know what his means are,” Pipes said. “The man is virtually a ghost.”

Nunez’s attorney, Herb Larson, said his client is an innocent man who is not a flight risk because he is a server at Morton’s Steakhouse and doesn’t have much money.

He said there is little evidence to connect Nunez to the alleged crimes and even less to hold him on so large a bond. His attorneys asked for bail of $25,000 on each rape count.

According to warrants issued for the men, the two victims woke up at separate times last September at Sharper’s apartment in the 700 block of Tchoupitoulas Street in a “stupor” and each told police they thought they had been raped while under the influence of an unknown substance.

According to the warrants, several people later told police that Sharper and Nunez said they had sex with the women without their consent.

“What we have is a third-party allegation that is, at best, hearsay,” Larson said. “What we do not have is a simple, straightforward allegation by either victim that Mr. Nunez did anything wrong.”

Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell ultimately set Nunez’s bail at $200,000 for each count.

Nunez agreed to surrender his passport, and a protective order was signed, meaning he cannot speak to any victims.

He remained jailed at 8 p.m. Friday, but his family was trying to post bond, Larson said.

A preliminary hearing for Nunez was set for 10 a.m. March 21.

Attorneys for each man have maintained their clients’ innocence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a preliminary hearing for Erik Nunez was scheduled for March 31. It is scheduled for March 21.