NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Disgraced NFL star Darren Sharper's attempt to get out of a 2016 plea deal and 18-year prison sentence in a sexual assault case has been rejected by a federal judge.

Attorneys for Sharper argued in a motion filed last year that he was not adequately advised by his previous lawyers on the consequences of his 2016 guilty plea, which arose from allegations that Sharper drugged and sexually assaulted as many as 16 women in four states.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo denied the motion in an order signed Wednesday. Milazzo noted in accompanying reasons, signed July 9 and made public Wednesday, that the former New Orleans Saints player had twice said in open court that he understood the terms of his plea agreement.

"This Court believes that Sharper's claim that he did not know the terms of his plea agreement and that his attorneys had not counseled him regarding the agreement is merely an attempt to avoid the harsh consequences of his actions," Milazzo wrote.

Sharper retired from the league in 2011. He was working as an NFL network analyst when women in several cities began telling police they had blacked out while drinking with him and woke up groggy to discover they had been sexually assaulted.

After he was arrested and jailed in Los Angeles in 2014, he initially fought charges. As allegations and criminal charges mounted, a "global" plea deal involving the federal court in New Orleans and state courts in Louisiana, Arizona, California and Nevada was announced. The deal was expected to result in Sharper spending about nine years in prison.

But Milazzo rejected the sentence as too light. She gave Sharper the option of withdrawing his plea. After he decided to maintain the plea, Milazzo sentenced him to 18 years and four months.

Sharper's 14-year NFL career included stints with the Green Bay Packers, the Minnesota Vikings and, finally, in New Orleans with the Saints, where he was part of the team that won the 2010 Super Bowl.

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