DETROIT (AP) — A U.S. man whose age, white hair and folksy style helped conceal his role as a drug courier was sentenced Wednesday — his 90th birthday — to three years in federal prison for hauling more than a ton of cocaine to Michigan.
"All I can tell you, your honor, is I'm really heartbroken I did what I did," Leo Sharp told a judge. "But it's done."
There was no dispute over Sharp's crimes: He admitted last year that he drove loads of cocaine into Michigan for a Mexican drug organization, one of 19 people charged in the case. The government said he was paid more than $1 million.
AP: Ed White
Leo Sharp walks toward U.S. District Court before his scheduled sentencing, Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Detroit.
Defense lawyer Darryl Goldberg focused on Sharp's past, not the trouble that landed him in court, while asking the judge to keep his client out of prison.
Sharp fought Nazis in Italy during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for it.
"This is not how we honor our heroes, whether they've fallen from grace or not," Goldberg said.
Goldberg also repeatedly warned that Sharp's dementia would be a burden for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. He said the condition led Sharp to use "bad judgment" and become a drug courier.
During brief remarks, Sharp said he wished to grow Hawaiian papayas on his property in Florida to pay off his $500,000 penalty to the government.
That won't be possible: The government is seizing and selling the land.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline said criminals don't get a pass simply for military service. He noted that Sharp used his age and appearance as a tool to avoid the suspicions of police on cross-country trips before he was finally caught during a traffic stop in 2011.
The government was seeking a five-year sentence, and sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of 14 years.