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.”
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. The Michigan City man also is known
for growing prize-winning daylilies and even contributed 5,000 plant bulbs
to his community.
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
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.
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.
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
"They bargained on
him not getting caught,” the judge said in agreement.
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