Sharp (U.S. Marshals Service)
Detroit — An 89-year-old drug mule pleaded guilty Tuesday in a move that spares him from standing trial in a federal drug conspiracy case.
Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Ind., appeared Tuesday in front of U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, one week before the start of his trial, to admit his involvement in hauling 228 pounds of cocaine across the country for one of Mexico’s most powerful drug rings.
“In my life, it’s the only time it ever happened,” said Sharp, referring to being in trouble. However, he later admitted to an incident in Mexico years ago.
“I was taking motion pictures of a prostitute, and they put me in jail,” he said.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Christopher Graveline has asked that Sharp, who is hard of hearing, be sentenced to five years in a Minnesota prison with medical facilities.
Sharp also must forfeit $500,000 in property owned in Florida in the deal.
Sharp faces sentencing before Edmunds on Feb. 11. Sharp told the judge it wouldn’t make much sense for her to sentence him to a lengthy prison term, such as for 10 years, a sentence also given for conspiracy to deliver narcotics.
“I won’t live that long,” said Sharp as he stood next to his attorney, Darryl Goldberg, who said he plans to ask Edmunds to give his client less than five years when she sentences him in February.
Sharp, a World War II Army veteran with a Bronze Star, was charged two years ago.
The case involved 19 defendants and gained notoriety because of Sharp’s age and the mutton-chopped man’s colorful appearance in federal court.
Sharp was pulled over in Washtenaw County in 2011, based on a tip to state police by federal drug agents.
Sharp’s attorney had said the drug seizure was illegal because authorities had no probable cause to stop him.
But Edmunds earlier this year ruled in favor of the government.
Sharp is a renowned horticulturalist and owner of a 46-acre farm where he grows 168 registered varieties of daylilies.
One variety, the Brookwood Bairn, is known for its triangle-shaped petals and bright yellow, red and green colors.