By Dana Feldman and Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former professional football player Darren Sharper, a star defensive back turned television sports analyst, was charged on Friday with drugging four women and raping two of them in a Los Angeles area hotel, prosecutors said.
Sharper, 38, appeared briefly in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday in connection with the alleged incidents, which prosecutors said occurred in October and January, but he did not enter a plea.
His arraignment was postponed until February 20, and a judge allowed Sharper to remain free on $200,000 bail.
Representing Sharper was Blair Berk, a high-profile celebrity defense lawyer whose past clients include Kiefer Sutherland, Mel Gibson and Queen Latifah. She said after the hearing that her client was innocent.
"We look forward to the true facts being revealed in this case and we are hopeful that Mr. Sharper will be fully exonerated before this case is concluded," she told reporters outside the court.
Sharper spent most of his 14-year National Football League career with the Green Bay Packers, but also played for the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints, helping the Saints win a Super Bowl title in 2010.
He retired the following year, after leading the league twice in interceptions and three times in defensive touchdowns. He was selected five times for the Pro Bowl and twice as a First-Team All-Pro.
Sharper, who went on to become an on-air NFL Network commentator, is charged with two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of furnishing a controlled substance and one count of possession of a controlled substance.
According to the prosecutors' account in court documents, Sharper met two women at a West Hollywood night club on two separate occasions and brought them back to a Los Angeles hotel room, where the alleged drugging and assaults took place.
On the first occasion, October 30, prosecutors said Sharper served the women a drink they believed was coffee-flavored tequila but which contained the prescription sleep medication zolpidem, known by the brand name Ambien.
The court documents say both women passed out, then one awoke later to find the other woman being raped, and that she interrupted the assault and they both fled. Prosecutors say a similar scenario unfolded with two different women on January 15 at the same hotel, but the alleged rape victim in that case said she did not realize it until after she woke up on her own.
INVESTIGATIONS IN OTHER STATES
Los Angeles police detectives arrested Sharper on January 17, and he was released on bond. Prosecutors filed formal charges against Sharper on Friday.
Prosecutors, in court papers, asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roberto Longoria to increase Sharper's bail to $10 million, saying the Miami resident was a suspect in sexual assaults in Arizona, Nevada and Louisiana in cases dating back to September.
Longoria kept Sharper's bail set at $200,000 but imposed conditions requiring the former athlete to stay in the Los Angeles area and not visit the West Hollywood nightclub where prosecutors say he met the women he is accused of raping.
Police in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe said they were investigating allegations Sharper drugged and sexually assaulted two women after they passed out November 21 at an apartment he was visiting. No charges have been filed in that case, said Tempe police spokesman Sergeant Mike Pooley.
Likewise, no charges have been filed in separate cases that Los Angeles prosecutors said were under police investigation in New Orleans and Las Vegas.
The NFL Network suspended Sharper without pay after his arrest in January.
Prosecutors said the drug possession charge against Sharper stemmed from his having morphine at the time of his arrest in January.
(Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Steve Gorman and Gunna Dickson)
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