Detroit, Michigan – A World War II hero has probably had happier birthday parties than the one planned for his upcoming 90th on May 7.
That’s the date Leo Sharp will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Detroit for transporting more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine across the country. His lawyers say Sharp’s dementia should keep him out of prison, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The World War II veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest individual military medal given for valor, was stopped on Interstate 94 by Michigan State Police in 2011. Worried about what the trooper would find, he reportedly declared, “Just kill me and let me leave this planet,” according to an Associated Press story on The Huffington Post.
Authorities did find more than 200 pounds of cocaine in his vehicle, but the government said it wasn’t the first time the Michigan City, IN, man had acted as a drug mule.
“It was kind of a bad decision to make at this time of life,” U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said last fall when Sharp pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme to distribute more than 1,400 pounds of drugs that originated in Arizona.
Sharp, who was reportedly talkative and contrite during his court appearance last fall, he said he had never committed a crime before. His only previous brush with the law was in Mexico, he said, when he was reproached for “taking motion pictures of a prostitute."
He agreed to act as a mule for the drug organization because he needed money, he said last fall.
Among the government’s evidence against Sharp were secretly recorded conversations in which drug dealers referred to the drug mule as the “old man.” He is reportedly one of the oldest criminal defendants ever to appear in Detroit’s federal court.
In papers filed in federal court Tuesday, Darryl Goldberg, Sharp’s attorney, urged leniency and said putting his client in prison would be an expensive undertaking because of his age and medical condition.
Sentencing guidelines, which aren’t mandatory, call for a minimum of 14 years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a five-year prison sentence, a significant break, because of Sharp’s age and war service record.
As part of the deal he reached with the government, he will pay a $500,000 fine, but retain his home in Indiana. He will have to give up a lily nursery in Apopka, FL.