DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A 90-year-old Indiana man who hauled cocaine to Michigan for drug dealers is spending his birthday in a Detroit courtroom.
Leo Sharp will learn Wednesday whether he goes to prison for his crime or gets a different punishment from federal Judge Nancy Edmunds. The drug courier pleaded guilty last fall, two years after he was arrested by Michigan State Police on I-94 in Washtenaw County.
Sharp was running more than 100 bricks of cocaine, over 2000 pounds, from Tucson, Arizona, to Detroit when he was pulled over near Chelsea, 60 miles west of Detroit, after making a bad lane change.
When a state trooper approached, Sharp was upset and declared, “Just kill me and let me leave this planet.”
Sharp, a WWII veteran who has no criminal record, later told police he was forced by a Mexican drug cartel to transport the cocaine or else his family would have been killed.
Prosecutors are recommending a five-year prison sentence — urging the judge to look beyond Sharp’s age and health issues and lock him up for delivering more than a ton of cocaine.
Sharp, of Michigan City, Indiana, hopes to stay out of prison. Defense attorney Darryl Goldberg said Sharp has dementia and other issues, and would be a burden for the prison system.
Ahead of the hearing, the government filed a 16-page memo that portrays Sharp as a greedy drug courier who repeatedly transported cocaine and millions of dollars across the country.
It’s quite the counter-punch to Sharp’s own court filing last week, in which his attorney said he was exploited and threatened by drug dealers during a tough period in his long life.
“These claims should be given zero weight. … There is not one credible piece of evidence supporting the defendant’s coercion claims,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline, noting there’s video of Sharp – known as “grandpa” and “old man” – joking and laughing with others charged in the drug conspiracy.
Graveline said Sharp received at least $1.25 million from his handlers for hauling more than 2,750 pounds of cocaine to Michigan from the Southwest in 2010 and 2011. He’s one of 19 people under indictment in a case connected to Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.
Graveline said the cartel “literally flooded the streets of southeast Michigan and Fort Wayne, Indiana, with kilograms of cocaine.”
“The government is not aware of a single courier, in recent memory, who has transported the volume of cocaine to southeast Michigan that the defendant did in the 21-month time period he was active in this organization,” the prosecutor wrote.
Graveline balked at a defense attorney’s statement that Sharp would be a burden on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, saying there are many prisoners in their 80s and 90s.
“The federal penal system works very hard to care for the individuals under their care, whether they are in their 20s or in their 90s,” he said. “There is simply nothing in the defendant’s medical history that would make him excludable from serving some time in incarceration.”
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