Judge frees elderly drug mule, who is dying, early
Detroit — Convicted drug mule Leo Sharp has been freed from federal prison two years early because the 91-year-old man is dying of an undisclosed medical condition.
Sharp's release and medical problems were revealed in court records unsealed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.
Sharp has a life expectancy of "six to nine months," according to a court order that does not pinpoint his medical condition. The Federal Bureau of Prisons website says Sharp was released Friday from a federal medical center in Minnesota.
"He's adjusting and happy to be home" in Michigan City, Sharp's lawyer Darryl Goldberg told The News. "His family is spending time with him and taking care of him, essentially around the clock."
Goldberg said he was unable to talk about Sharp's medical condition.
The order, dated June 23 but unsealed Wednesday, 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.
The judge concluded there were "extraordinary and compelling" reasons to free Sharp.
"The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons contends, and this court agrees, that the defendant's terminal medical condition and limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting the requested reduction," Edmunds wrote.
Such a release is rare.
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.
If Sharp survives, he will be on probation for three years.
A lawyer for Sharp, whose story is being made into a movie, has said the elderly drug mule was suffering from dementia.
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, he was paid about $1.25 million.
Sharp was facing up to 17 1/2 years in prison but prosecutors agreed to recommend a shorter sentence.