Shape Up or Sharpe Out

The tortured personal and legal saga of Luis Sharpe took yet another turn April 19 when a judge released the former Arizona Cardinals star to a Phoenix drug rehabilitation center.

Sharpe appeared before hearing officer Aimee Burr Faust wearing a black-and-white-striped jail outfit that said "Sheriff's Inmate -- Unsentenced" on its back. The trim and healthy-looking Sharpe towered over the other inmates also awaiting disposition of their probation violation cases.

County probation officials alleged Sharpe had violated his March 2000 probation by failing to report to them within 72 hours after federal immigration authorities released the Cuban native to the drug rehab center. Sharpe was on probation for two felony counts. Prior to his court hearing last week, he'd been in custody at the Madison Street Jail for 19 days.

Sharpe, a veteran of 13 years in the National Football League, lost his family, his once-stellar reputation and nearly his life -- he was shot twice in separate incidents -- to crack-cocaine addiction ("Waiting to Inhale," Paul Rubin, June 6, 1996).

In the New Times story, Sharpe compared his drug addiction to the rush of fending off oncoming linebackers as an offensive football tackle. "There's an edge, a lot of correlations. It's like you're playing the 40-yard line and you're playing the world champions. . . . That's a rush, so to speak. Seductive. Like crack. Like those demons after my ass."

Hearing officer Faust reinstated Sharpe's probation and ordered him to return to the drug rehabilitation center after his release from jail. It's the latest in a series of one-more-chances for Sharpe, who has failed time and again at staying sober.

Still hanging in the balance, says Sharpe's attorney Marc Budoff, is what the Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to do with the wayward ex-All Pro. Federal authorities last year began proceedings to deport Sharpe to his homeland, after Sharpe's second felony conviction in four years on drug-related charges. The 40-year-old has been living in the United States since he was 6, but isn't a naturalized citizen.

"Good luck to you," Faust told Sharpe at the end of the hearing.

Overhearing that, a sheriff's deputy whispered to a colleague, "He'll need it."


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