Elderly drug mule could be freed early
Detroit — Prosecutors asked a federal judge Monday to immediately release a 91-year-old drug mule convicted of transporting cocaine for a Mexican cartel — a crime that has inspired a Hollywood movie.
The request to release Leo Earl Sharp is sealed in federal court but must include "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for granting compassionate release, according to federal law.
Sharp's lawyer Darryl Goldberg previously has said the elderly drug mule was suffering from health problems, notably dementia. He declined to explain Sharp's health on Monday, citing privacy restrictions.
"I have been of the position Mr. Sharp should not have been incarcerated in the first place," Goldberg told The News. "I commend the Bureau of Prisons and the government for its compassion and recognition that based on the circumstances, Mr. Sharp should be immediately released from prison."
The request comes more than one year after the mutton-chopped man from Michigan City, Indiana, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for trying to haul 228 pounds of cocaine into Detroit for a Mexican drug ring. He is serving the sentence at a federal medical center in Minnesota.
Most requests for compassionate release are rejected by the Bureau of Prisons.
A 2013 Justice Department review showed that an average of 24 inmates are released each year from a prison population of approximately 218,000 people.
Sharp was involved in one of the more colorful criminal cases in federal court in recent years featuring what the man's lawyer called the oldest criminal defendant ever sentenced in federal court. Sharp is a decorated World War II veteran and a world-famous plant hybridizer who teamed up with a notorious Mexican drug ring.
Sharp made seven trips to Detroit and delivered more than 1,200 kilograms of cocaine, prosecutors said. In return, Sharp was paid about $1.25 million.
Sharp was facing up to 17 1/2years in prison but struck a deal and prosecutors agreed to recommend a shorter sentence.
"To ignore the extent of his involvement is to say to every drug organization that if you want to inoculate your organization from punishment, get an elderly person to do deliveries for you," the judge said during Sharp's sentencing in May 2014. "It's most unfortunate Mr. Sharp became involved in this."
Soon, his life's tale is expected to be turned into a Hollywood movie.
A Hollywood studio last year acquired the rights to a New York Times Magazine article about Sharp and plans to make a movie about the man's life.
The movie will be directed by Ruben Fleischer. He directed the 2013 mob movie "Gangster Squad."