Ex-NFL player Sharper gets 9 years in Arizona sex assault case

Did former National Football League player, and accused rapist Darren Sharper get too lenient of a punishment?

He was charged with drugging and raping women in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Louisiana, but he cut a deal that some feel doesn't fit the crime.

Sharper will serve about nine years as part of an agreement to resolve rape charges in four states, including here in Arizona.

He admitted to drugging and sexually assaulting one woman, and trying to sexually assault another in Tempe in 2013.

On Monday, he entered a plea by video link from Los Angeles where he has been in jail for a year.

Judge: "How do you plead?"
Sharper: "No contest."
Judge: "You should understand Mr. Sharper, a plea of no contest to these felony charges is exactly the same as a plea of guilty, there is no difference whatsoever."

Sharper pleaded no contest in California to what his attorney says is a "global" resolution.

As part of the plea deal to settle all nine charges, Sharper agreed to a 20-year sentence, minus one year behind bars for the time he's already served, and ten years for good behavior. It means he could be free in as little as nine years. 

Legal experts believe all the victims had to have approved the deal. California Deputy District Attorney Alison Meyers confirmed the victims there are on board.

"Being spared the trauma of having to testify about their experiences is tantamount to them, they understand by this plea deposition they do not have to be present to do that," said Alison Meyers.

"When you have all these states it takes a lot of time and effort to coordinate and come up with a plea agreement that satisfies everybody; all the victims and all the states, so I wouldn't say it is very common at all," said legal expert Monica Lindstrom.

Lindstrom said if Sharper went to trial and was convicted, he could have faced much more prison time for just one of the crimes.

She called the sentence lenient, but justifiable.

"It is a good deal for the defendant Daren Sharper clearly, it's a good deal for him, for the victims it spares them from having to testify and have this drag out in their lives, which is something they don't want to do. It also forces him to take responsibility, it will also end his career in any manner with the NFL," she said.

As part of the plea deal, Sharper's time will be done in Federal Prison, not state prison.

He will be required to register as a convicted sex offender.

In a statement, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the agreement holds Sharper "appropriately accountable," and eliminates a potentially lengthy delay in providing justice to his victims.

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