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Man, 90, gets 3-year prison sentence for drugs

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) - An Indiana man whose age, white hair and folksy style helped conceal his role as a drug courier was sentenced Wednesday - his 90th birthday - to three years in federal prison for hauling more than a ton of cocaine to Michigan.

"All I can tell you, your honor, is I'm really heartbroken I did what I did," Leo Sharp told a judge. "But it's done."

Wearing a dark suit and tie, the frail man stuffed his hands in his pockets as he stood in front of U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. His attorney occasionally reached over to put a reassuring grip on his shoulder or a supportive stoke on his back.

There was no dispute over Sharp's crimes: He admitted last fall that he drove loads of cocaine into Michigan for a Mexican drug organization, one of 19 people charged in the case. The government said he was paid more than $1 million.

"I don't doubt it will be difficult," Edmunds told Sharp of prison, "but respect for the law requires there be some custody."

His age aside, Sharp still isn't a typical criminal. He fought Nazis in Italy during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for it. The Michigan City, Indiana, man also is known for growing prize-winning daylilies and even contributed 5,000 plant bulbs to his community.

Defense lawyer Darryl Goldberg focused on Sharp's past, not the trouble that landed him in court, while asking the judge to keep his client out of prison.

"This is not how we honor our heroes, whether they've fallen from grace or not," Goldberg said.

The attorney spent several minutes reading a history of the Battle of Mount Battaglia - "German blood on the end of their bayonets" - before the judge finally interrupted him.

Goldberg repeatedly warned that Sharp's dementia would be a burden for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He acknowledged Sharp "went into this eyes wide," but said his condition led him to use "bad judgment" and become a drug courier.

During brief remarks, Sharp said he wished to grow Hawaiian papayas on his property in Florida to pay off his $500,000 penalty to the government.

"So sweet and delicious that people on the mainland will love it," he said.

That won't be possible: The government is seizing and selling the land.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline said criminals don't get a pass simply for military service. He noted that Sharp used his age and appearance as a tool to shake the suspicions of police on cross-country trips before he was finally busted during a traffic stop on Interstate 94, west of Detroit, in 2011.

"They bargained on him not getting caught," the judge said in agreement.

Edmunds said linking dementia to Sharp's crimes was an "insult to all the people who have dementia and don't get involved in illegal activity."

Despite going to prison, Sharp still got a significant break. The government was seeking a five-year sentence, and sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of 14 years.

Join the discussion

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plewdawg May 08 2014 at 7:02 AM

If he had been black, obamanos or holder would have said something in his defense.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
buzzyseed May 08 2014 at 7:49 AM

Maybe we all should get arrested when we are 90, that way we can afford to live.
Jail is cheaper than assisted living.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bullmesht May 08 2014 at 7:50 AM

He'll probably get better care inside then on the outside.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Robert Leonetti bullmesht May 08 2014 at 8:06 AM

very doubtful

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Diana May 08 2014 at 7:53 AM

He's heartbroken, but he got paid a million, ah poor thing.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
garo4321 May 08 2014 at 7:57 AM

And some people don't understand why they search Grandma at the airport .

Flag Reply +2 rate up
hannibal_lectur_md May 08 2014 at 8:02 AM

This was peanuts for the cartel--an emergency delivery or so. Unfortunately the drug cartels know what they are doing.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Nancy May 08 2014 at 8:02 AM

The posts that support, condone or otherwise sympathize with Sharp are exactly what he's looking for folks. Don't you get it??? The man is reaching out for public empathy & hoping this "uproar" will help get him off the hook for a CRIME he committed. Obviously, many of you have never experienced drug addiction & its fallout, or else you feel removed (This can't happen to me' aww. the poor WW2 vet.) & superior to this man's situation. That he suffers from dementia is irrelevant.. That he is a war veteran is irrelevant. That he is 90 is irrelevant. Would you be saying the same things, feeling pity for this guy if he was 50, healthy & served in Iraq? No way. Sharp, thru his "mule" dealings has reeked havoc upon, not only his victims (the users), but their friends &families, as well as the general public. I wonder how many addicts are dead from his actions; how many robberies were committed to get stuff to sell or outright money to buy his crap. He did the crime; now do the time!

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ian47pegasus May 08 2014 at 8:04 AM

One million dolars, how can I get in touch with those Mexican drug Lords ? Hell, its crack for goodness sake, and at a half million dollar fine, the government stands to make a hansom shake down from this 90 year old currier, not even a dealer his crime is comperable to whisky smugelers during proibition, as for his age, he should have the same privilaged treatment as those under age kids that the justice system let off, talk about age discrimination !!!!!!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
jmaeson1964 May 08 2014 at 8:07 AM

"This is not how we honor our heroes, whether they've fallen from grace or not,"

yes it is, even more so because they were heroes and decided to do the wrong thing.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
williamtaylor0811 May 08 2014 at 8:09 AM

When does government take responsibility for their citizens. High unemployment, jobs deliberately leaving the country and never to be replaced,and the high cost of education and it cannot be written off,billions of dollars spent overseas for a make believe war on terrorism and the rich,get bailed out by our tax dollars while the thieves who stole(outside of Madoff),walk scott free. Then they punish those who cheat to survive..wow.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Ralph & Cindy williamtaylor0811 May 08 2014 at 8:17 AM

Did you even read the story?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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