It was a routine the charismatic athlete had come to rely on.
Chat up a couple of women at a club. Show them that a TV personality and former NFL player can be down-to-earth and genuine. Convince the women that the night is young and there is more fun elsewhere. Ply them with drinks laced with sedatives that blacken their memories and incapacitate their bodies. Rape at least one of them.
For months, Darren Sharper’s actions played on repeat across four states. More than a dozen accusers came forward in a case that would ultimately require him to be sentenced in five jurisdictions, one of which was a federal court.
The final sentence was handed down Tuesday in a Los Angeles courtroom in which Sharper arrived shackled and in an orange jumpsuit, his signature goatee still intact.
The 41-year-old was stoic as he listened to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor sentence him to 20 years in prison for drugging and raping two women in Los Angeles.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection who was working as an analyst for the NFL Network, Sharper had approached two women at Bootsy Bellows, a nightclub in West Hollywood in October 2013. He invited them to another party, but said he had to stop at his hotel. Inside his room, he offered the women drinks. One woman awoke to find herself naked, and Sharper sexually assaulting her.
Weeks later, Sharper was at the same nightclub and invited two women to a party. Again, he stopped at his hotel. After the women awoke, they sought medical treatment.
Last year, Sharper pleaded guilty or no contest to drugging and raping a total of nine women in multiple states, although a judge said a pre-sentencing report indicated there were as many as 16 victims.
His deal with Los Angeles prosecutors includes serving 50% of his sentence, minus time already served. A recently passed state law that increases parole chances for nonviolent criminals may also decrease the amount of time Sharper serves, as rape of an intoxicated person is not considered violent in California, Deputy Dist. Atty Alison Foster said.
In addition to receiving sentences from judges in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana, Sharper was also ordered to serve more than 18 years by a federal judge in Louisiana. All sentences are to be served concurrently.
Foster called Pastor’s ruling appropriate.
If the case had gone to trial, Sharper’s maximum exposure would have been about 30 years, Foster said, but there would be no guarantee. The plea deal means there can be no appeal.
“That gives your victims some closure and saves them the trauma of having to testify,” she said.
Sharper did not make a statement at Tuesday’s proceedings, and his attorneys declined to comment.
Two of his victims, flanked by attorney Gloria Allred, however, did choose to speak.
The first, stood behind a lectern in the jury box, out of the sight line of her rapist. She started to speak but stopped. She trembled. She blinked. She cried.
And then she spoke of the night she and a friend encountered Sharper at a club. After attending a party together, they were headed to another gathering, but Sharper said he first had to pick up something from his hotel room. He handed her a drink. Darkness filled her head.
“I can only imagine myself lying there like a vegetable while he took advantage of my body without my permission,” she said. “I have lost every bit of self-confidence I’ve ever had and am always in fear while alone. It doesn’t matter whether it’s day or night, I can see a guy and automatically in my head think, ‘What if this guy tries to rape me?’”
The woman said her surfing career fizzled. She found she couldn’t focus or strike up her usual passion for the sport. She lost her sponsor. She struggled to find her self-worth. “I feel lost in this world,” she said.
The other victim in the courtroom chose to sit on the witness stand, at one point meeting eyes with Sharper.
Her words came loud, but breathless, and at times she gasped to get through the tears.
Her friend was raped that night. She was not. But she can’t shake the blank footage that plays in her mind.
“I’ve tried to remember and I can’t, not a thing,” she said. “It’s the darkest moment in my life. It’s the moment when someone had complete control over me, I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t know what he did with me, I’ll never know.”
The woman said when she came to, her mouth and nose were bleeding. She vomited. She worried that a police report would mean Sharper would come after her.
People told her she had been lucky, but she had nightmares of Sharper raping her, strangling her. She blamed herself. “It got so bad I stopped trying to sleep,” she said.
She was not herself in the final moments she could have shared with her sister who was battling brain cancer and died four months after the assault.
Sharper had stolen the little time she could have focused on her best friend, she said.
But Darren Sharper, she declared, will never take something so precious from another woman again.
For more news from Southern California, follow me on Twitter: @corinaknoll
7:25 p.m.: This article was rewritten and updated with comments from two victims and a prosecutor.
This story was originally published at 10:40 a.m.