A 90-year-old drug mule was sentenced on his birthday Wednesday to spend three years in prison for his role in a drug smuggling operation.
Leo Sharp, a World War II hero decorated for bravery, reportedly whispered “death sentence” and threatened to commit suicide if punishment for his role in smuggling cocaine into Detroit for a Mexican drug ring included a prison sentence, The Detroit News reports.
After he made the threat, lawyers on both sides argued before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds about whether Sharp should be sent immediately to prison or allowed to surrender to prison at a later date.
“Because he risked his life for this country means he should not get a life sentence,” defense attorney Darryl Goldberg said. “That’s not how we honor our heroes, whether they have fallen from grace or are labeled a felon.”
In the end, Edmunds sided with U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline, who said his status as a veteran doesn’t give him the right to commit crimes and avoid prison. He said prison is appropriate given the seriousness of the offense and the “staggering” amount of money he made – about $1.25 million for delivering 1,000 kilograms of cocaine during six trips to Detroit between 2009 and 2011.
“The amount of money is staggering, but also the amount of wrecked lives is staggering,” Graveline told the judge. “How many wrecked lives and addicts are on the streets because Mr. Sharp brought cocaine here?”
“It’s not a victimless crime,” Edmunds said, according to a report in The Detroit Free Press. “This is a huge drug operation and Mr. Sharp was right in the middle of it.
“It would be weak for me to say, ‘Well, he’s an old man ...’ I think respect for the law requires there be some custody in this case,” she said.
Sharp could have faced up to 17½ years in prison for the crimes.