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May 1, 2014

You be the federal sentencing judge: what prison term for massive drug courier ... who is a 90-year-old WWII vet?

Old guyThis remarkable Detroit Free-Press article reports on a remarkable drug criminal facing a remarkable federal sentencing next week.  The piece is headlined "Convicted drug mule to spend 90th birthday in court facing sentencing," and here are the details:

An Indiana senior citizen will celebrate his 90th birthday in bizarre fashion Wednesday: getting sentenced in federal court for hauling cocaine across the country for a Mexican drug cartel. Convicted drug mule Leo Earl Sharp, though, is hoping to stay out of prison....

Sharp’s lawyer says prison is no place for his client: a frail, decorated World War II veteran who suffers from dementia.  “Labeling a war hero like Mr. Sharp a federal felon and forever tarnishing his reputation is sufficient punishment in itself; a sentence of imprisonment would be greater than necessary,” defense attorney Darryl Goldberg wrote in court documents....

The U.S. Attorney’s office has not yet filed a sentencing recommendation, but is expected to do so before Sharp’s sentencing before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. In a previous court document — Sharpe’s plea agreement — prosecutors recommended a five year prison sentence.

Sharp, of Michigan City, Ind., was arrested in 2011 during a traffic stop near Ann Arbor, where he was busted with nearly $3 million worth of cocaine in his pickup. Authorities eventually learned that the elderly pickup driver was a courier for a massive drug ring that ran a cocaine pipeline between Mexico and Detroit for several years, according to an indictment that charged 18 defendants total....

In October 2013, Sharp pleaded guilty to conspiracy to posses with intent to possess and deliver cocaine.  Under the terms of his plea agreement, the sentencing guidelines call for a 168-210 month prison sentence, although prosecutors said they would recommend five years. Sharpe’s lawyer has requested home confinement.

“When you are living on Social Security for your entire income, you are really in need of money and that’s why I did what I did at first. I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions and I made a tremendous mistake.  I should not have gotten involved and I feared for my life and my family’s lives and felt I had no choice,” Sharp explained in a report to a U.S. probation officer. Sharp also explained that he “agreed to transport money in exchange for a fee … and was later asked to carry drugs.” When he told his cohorts that he “wasn’t going to do that anymore, they put a gun to (his) head and threatened (him) and said they would kill (his family.)”...

According to the indictment, Sharp was a drug courier for two years, delivering roughly 670 kilograms of cocaine to conspirators in Michigan between 2009 and 2011. Shipments of cocaine would be received at the Arizona-Mexico border, and then driven to Michigan, where members would meet at a warehouse in Wyandotte and unload the drugs for distribution. The drug organization, records show, is a part of an international drug cartel based in Sinaloa, Mexico, and helped distribute between 100 and 300 kilograms of cocaine per month in metro Detroit from 2008 through 2011.

May 1, 2014 at 11:02 PM | Permalink


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I can live with home confinement in THIS case .

Posted by: Docile Jim Brady - Columbus OH 43209 | May 1, 2014 11:24:35 PM

The most rational, utilitarian remedy is summary execution. End the punishment of the taxpayer. He caused far more damage to his country than his life is worth. Time to go, grandpa.

The pro-criminal lawyer profession will not allow anyone to touch him. So the second best remedy is seize the house of the neighbor of the pro-criminal judge via Kelo, and to house him right next door.

Because criminals do not specialize, let the prisoner drool at the judge's female relatives, as they try to get somewhere every day.

Bring home the crime to the lawyer profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 2, 2014 12:37:42 AM

Is the Mexican Drug Cartel hiring the demented, these days. Or are they hiring slick criminals who can pull the wool over the eyes of the lawyer profession?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 2, 2014 1:13:16 AM

Let's be clear what happened here...he intentionally decided to smuggle a large amount of drugs for supplemental income. And he knew precisely what he was doing. The duress occurred later, and the dementia was an afterthought by the defense attorney.

I know is this going to sound harsh...but he deserves time behind bars. If this were a 20-year-old inner city kid with no job prospects who felt a need to help his family, he would be lucky to get 20 years notwithstanding his "noble" intentions. It would be unfair to immunize someone solely on grounds of his advanced age.

Posted by: Res ipsa | May 2, 2014 10:34:46 AM

Drug cartels do not give sole custody and control of six-figures worth of product to people who don't want to be involved. They do not put a gun to your head and force you drive a truck unescorted across the country. This gentleman's story is poppycock. If you spend any appreciable time in the criminal justice system, you will learn that virtually EVERY defendant claims they were forced through coercion to drive and fly around with huge quantities of drugs. Maybe the cartels should look into a better benefits program so they can attract some willing participants.

That doesn't mean I would lock this guy up. I would want, as the judge, an opportunity to front him on his story first, and then decide.

Posted by: Wayne-O | May 2, 2014 12:45:28 PM

since no one posting so far has a clue as to what the actual details are, including myself, I'd be less likely to take a position based on, what quite likely sounds like personal jaded and biased assumptions.

Posted by: Randy | May 2, 2014 2:08:36 PM

Why the government wants to pay for his medical bills for the next five years (if he lives that long) is beyond me. Given the guidelines and the value, I do think jail time is appropriate (although I'm not sure why this warrants going above the guidelines like the Prosecution advocates).

It's hard to say what goals there are here besides retributivism. The facts are too unique for general deterrence and I don't either specific deterrence or incapacitation are necessary (I don't think there's any indication that he'd do this again). That being said, he did violate the law in a very significant way and helped fun organized crime. So it's not a victimless crime either.

Posted by: Erik M | May 2, 2014 3:26:43 PM

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