When Darren Sharper, a hero of the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl team, was accused of rape in 2013, prosecutors were hesitant to move on a local football hero with deep pockets and savvy lawyers, so they held off on an arrest warrant, reports ProPublica. “If his name was John Brown, he would have been in jail,” said one criminal justice official. “If a woman says, ‘He’s the guy that raped me,’ and you have corroborating evidence to show they were together and she went to the hospital and she can identify him, that guy goes to jail.” Sharper did not, and continued an unchecked crime spree that ended only with his arrest in Los Angeles last year after assaulting four women in 24 hours. Sharper’s rampage of druggings and rapes could have been prevented, found a two-month investigation by ProPublica and The New Orleans Advocate based on police records in five states, court documents and dozens of interviews.
Nine women reported being raped or drugged by Sharper to four different agencies before his January 2014 capture. Police and prosecutors along the way failed to investigate fully the women’s allegations. They made no arrests. Some victims and eyewitnesses said their claims were downplayed. Corroborating evidence, including DNA matches and video surveillance, was minimized or put on hold. Perhaps most critically, police did not look into Sharper’s history. Had they done so, they would have detected a chilling predatory pattern that bolstered the women’s accounts. More than 20 years after Congress and state legislatures reformed laws to put more rapists in prison, police and prosecutors do not take full advantage of the tools at their disposal.