Although he pleaded guilty last year to serving as a drug mule, Leo Sharp's attorney is now requesting that his client be sentenced to house arrest. Sharp made national headlines in 2011 when the then 87-year-old World War II veteran became one of the oldest drug traffickers to appear in federal court. The Associated Press reported that Sharp's attorney, Darryl Goldberg, filed an 18-page sentencing memo in preparation for Sharp's May 7 sentencing date -- which coincides with his 90th birthday.
"He is a colorful, self-made, charitable man who has worked hard throughout this entire admirable, extraordinary, and long life," Goldberg wrote in the memo. He continued, "Mr. Sharp made a monumental mistake at a moment of perceived financial weakness, and was exploited and threatened, but his conduct in this case was truly an aberration from a law-abiding life."
In 2011, Michigan state police pulled over Sharp's van and found 200 pounds of cocaine inside, which he admitted was not his first haul. At the time of his arrest he had been working for the Sinaloa cartel for two years. Although he says that he knew it was cocaine and understood what he was doing, the AP reported that Sharp was diagnosed with dementia.
According to ABC, before becoming a drug mule in his mid-80's, Sharp was a renowned producer of day lilies. In an ABC affiliate interview, Sharp likened his day lily production to cocaine distribution: "All God's plants that cheer people up are created for a purpose. To take depressed peoples' minds and make them feel good."
Sharp has publicly stated that he plans to kill himself if he is in fact sentenced to the prison time to which he agreed in his plea deal. He said, "I'm going to get a [expletive] gun and shoot myself in the mouth or my ear, one or the other. I won't live in a toilet with bars, ever."
Keri Blakinger is a freelance writer and prison reform activist. Follow her on Twitter @keribla or visit her blog for a steady stream of prison reform stories.