Former NFL star Darren Sharper was sentenced Thursday to more than 18 years in prison for drugging women in order to rape them — double the sentence recommended by prosecutors.
The former New Orleans Saints safety, jailed since February 2014, apologized and appeared chastened by his fall from grace.
"I would like to apologize a thousand times," the 40-year-old Sharper said. Later, he said, looking down and sighing, "I'm still trying to figure out why I made some of these choices."
His voice quivered and choked with emotion when he apologized to his parents.
One of Sharp's victims — the only one to speak at his sentencing hearing — rebuffed his display of contrition.
"For the list of people you've done this to: Go to hell," she said. Her name was not given in court, and The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual abuse by name.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, in sentencing Sharper, told him she couldn't understand how he did what he did, since he was college educated and obviously had grown up "in one of the most loving households."
"We can never ignore the damage you inflicted on those women and society at large," she said.
Sharper had pleaded guilty in federal court in New Orleans to drugging three women so he could rape them. He also has pleaded guilty or no contest in state courts in Louisiana, Arizona, California and Nevada to charges arising from allegations of drugging and raping women.
Defense attorney Billy Gibbens asked for leniency because Sharper's testimony helped get "late" guilty pleas from two codefendants who will be sentenced in October.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McMahon told the judge, "I don't think Mr. Sharper has really wrapped his head around the fact that he is a serial rapist."
Meanwhile, the tearful victim told Sharper that because of arrogance and "clear stupidity," he kept drugging and raping women even after he knew she was talking to state and federal investigators.
"Within days ... 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."
She said she understands that people make mistakes. "But it wasn't a mistake. A mistake happens once and you never make it again." Rather, she said, it was "a way of life for you and your friends."
Prosecutors suggested a 9-year prison term for Sharper under a multi-jurisdictional plea deal, but Milazzo rejected it in June as too lenient. The sentence she imposed, 18 years and four months imprisonment, was 15 months short of the maximum. Sharper also was fined $20,000. His sentence will run concurrently with any state sentence.
The judge said he will be on three years' supervised release after he gets out of prison, including "sex treatment conditions" and registration as a sex offender.
Sharper or his friend Brandon Licciardi, a former sheriff's deputy in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, put anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives into women's drinks so they could rape them, according to a 15-page statement signed as part of Sharper's plea agreement.
Milazzo has scheduled sentencing Oct. 13 for Licciardi and a second New Orleans codefendant, Erik Nunez.
Charges around the country involve nine victims, but Milazzo has said in court that there may be as many as 16.
Sharper was named All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times during a career that included stints with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and one with New Orleans Saints when they won in 2010.
He ended a 14-year career in 2011. He was working as an NFL network analyst when women began telling police in several cities similar stories of blacking out while drinking with him and waking up groggy to find they had been sexually abused.