Darren Sharper, the now-disgraced former NFL star, has entered a guilty plea in the first of four cases that each charge that Sharper drugged and then sexually assaulted a total of nine women. Today’s guilty plea, in Maricopa County, Arizona, resulted in a nine-year prison sentence. As of this writing, other courts, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, have yet to sentence Sharper on what’s being called a “global” plea agreement.
The benefit to Sharper for entering into this “global” agreement is that each of the sentences will be served concurrently – at the same time – as opposed to consecutively. Once all the pleas have been entered, Sharper will be transferred to federal prison to serve out the time, according to the terms of the deal. Typically, punishment for sex offenses runs consecutively, meaning that the offender doesn’t begin earning credits on sentence number two until they have fully served the sentence on crime number one. This deal will undoubtedly save Sharper several decades in prison, especially when credits for good behavior and the time he’s been in custody in a Los Angeles jail – now over a year – is considered. Since Nevada prosecutors have disclosed that under the terms of their deal, Sharper faces a maximum of eight years there, the top sentence will control the maximum exposure that he has to prison.
Of course, the benefit for the justice system is that judicial economy is served by taking four cases of the dockets in four different states, and perhaps most importantly, saving nine different victims the experience of taking part in what would have been a very public, hotly contested trial where very intimate facts would have been revealed. I would imagine that for some victims, there is massive therapeutic value in standing up in court, head held high, and announcing that Darren Sharper did to them what he apparently did to several women: drugged them to the point that they were unconscious, and then sexually assaulted them. With this global deal, there will be no such opportunity, but typically prosecutors will consult with victims to factor in their desires before agreeing to plea bargains in sex offenses.
While this story has caught courtroom observers off guard, a coordinated effort and plea bargain of this nature must have been in the works for some time; this is not the kind of result that is worked out overnight. Sharper’s criminal defense attorney and prosecutors from four different states, as well as federal authorities, had to have been working on this matter for weeks.
I’ve taken some very informal and unscientific polls about reaction to Darren Sharper’s case. Opinions vary widely on the length of the sentence. Some are offended by the sheer number of victims, and the arrogance of Sharper, and have expressed that spending less than a decade behind bars is woefully inadequate as a punishment. Others have suggested that it is too harsh.
But universally, everyone who I spoke to didn’t understand how Shaper – a man with wealth from 14 years as an NFL star, the adoration of fans, a great gig as an NFL Network commentator, and so much going for him – would need to resort to such deplorable tactics in the name of sexual fulfillment. But Darren Sharper’s sexual assaults were all about the assault, not about the sex. This wasn’t a man seeking sexual pleasure; this was a man who engaged in a violent act against a victim incapable of opposing his wishes. This is something that the court of public opinion is growing all too familiar with.
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