90-year-old drug courier gets 3-year prison sentence

Leo Sharp walks toward U.S. District Court before his scheduled sentencing, Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Detroit. AP Photo/Ed White

DETROIT – A U.S. 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 honour, 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 year 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.

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Defence 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.

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Sharp fought Nazis in Italy during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for it.

“This is not how we honour our heroes, whether they’ve fallen from grace or not,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg also repeatedly warned that Sharp’s dementia would be a burden for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He said the condition led Sharp 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.

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 avoid the suspicions of police on cross-country trips before he was finally caught during a traffic stop in 2011.

The government was seeking a five-year sentence, and sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of 14 years.

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