Feds want prison for 90-year-old drug mule

Leo Earl Sharp
FILE - This undated booking file photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Leo Earl Sharp, who was arrested for cocaine possession near Chelsea, Ind. Sharp, a drug courier referred to as the "old man" by his handlers, returns to Detroit federal court on his 90th birthday, May 7. His attorney filed an 18-page sentencing memo, hoping to persuade a judge that home confinement would be appropriate for the Michigan City, Ind., resident. (AP Photo/U.S. Marshals Service, File)

DETROIT (AP) — Federal prosecutors urged a judge Tuesday to send a 90-year-old man to prison for five years because he worked as a courier for a drug organization that “literally flooded” southeastern Michigan with cocaine.

Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Indiana, returns to court for his sentence Wednesday — his 90th birthday. Ahead of the hearing, the government filed a 16-page memo that portrays him as a greedy drug courier who repeatedly transported cocaine and millions of dollars across the country.

It is a sharp 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.

He 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.

Sharp pleaded guilty last fall. Michigan state police caught him in 2011 on Interstate 94. Stunned by the bust, he told a trooper: “Just kill me and let me leave this planet.”

Sharp was a member of a drug group “that literally flooded the streets of southeast Michigan and Fort Wayne, Indiana, with kilograms of cocaine,” Graveline said.

“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.

Defense attorney Darryl Goldberg said Sharp, who was awarded a Bronze Star in World War II, has dementia and would be a costly burden to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. But Graveline said 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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