DETROIT — An 89-year-old man pleaded guilty today in Detroit to serving as a drug mule in a scheme to distribute more than 1,400 pounds of cocaine.
Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Ind., is one of the oldest criminal defendants to step inside Detroit’s federal court. He was contrite and very talkative during his appearance, saying he had never before committed a crime and worked for a drug organization because he needed money.
Sharp was 87 in 2011 when a Michigan state trooper pulled him over on Interstate 94, west of Detroit. Anxious and upset about what the trooper would find, he declared, “Just kill me and let me leave this planet.”
In court, Sharp wore a dark suit that had a lapel pin signifying his service in World War II. He playfully winked at drug agents who investigated the case. His hearing aids weren’t strong enough so U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds invited Sharp to stand just a few feet away from her.
“You knew it was cocaine, right?” Edmunds asked.
“I did,” Sharp replied. “Oh, yes.”
The delivery of more than 200 pounds wasn’t Sharp’s first interstate haul. He admitted he was responsible for more than 1,400 pounds of drugs. The government said it has evidence that Sharp was transporting marijuana and cocaine from the West Coast back in 2000.
Nonetheless, prosecutors are showing mercy by recommending a five-year prison sentence because of Sharp’s age and his war service. It’s a significant break: The sentencing guidelines, which aren’t mandatory, call for a minimum of 14 years.
Defense attorney Darryl Goldberg said he will ask for less than five years when Sharp returns to court on Feb. 11.
Sharp owes $500,000 as part of the plea deal and has agreed to give up his lily nursery in Apopka, Fla.