90-year-old World War II veteran Leo Sharp was sentenced to three years in federal prison on his birthday because of his role in a cocaine-smuggling operation for a Mexican cartel.
His lawyer, who says that Sharp suffers from dementia, wants the federal court to reconsider its sentence, which he says amounts to a death sentence for the old vet.
"I won’t live in prison, I’m just going to end my life if I end up there," Sharp told the Detroit Free Press.
Sharp was picked up a traffic stop hear Ann Arbor in 2011. He was found with almost $3 million worth of cocaine in his pick-up truck.
“I’m really heartbroken I did what I did. But it’s done,” Sharp said.
Attorney Darryl Goldberg pointed to Sharp’s outstanding military service during World War II. Sharp was awarded the Bronze Star.
“Before we were even born, he was on top of mountains fighting Nazis,” Goldberg said.
He also claimed that his client was threatened and manipulating into acting as a drug mule.
“This old man was brainwashed … when he wanted to quit, they put a gun to his head,” Goldberg said.
But U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds wasn’t buying it. She called the dementia argument an "insult to all the people who have dementia and don't get involved in illegal activity” and said that she was obligated to give Sharp prison time.
She said that letting Sharp off would amount to sending a message to drug dealers: "if you want to inoculate your organization from punishment ... get an elderly person to do your deliveries for you."
Edmunds also noted that in light of Sharp’s age, the sentence is lighter than the recommended five years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline agreed that “Mr. Sharp needs to receive some prison time.”
“This was not a, ‘Whoops I stumbled into this,’” said Graveline. “He is a willing participant.”
Sharp is one of 19 people charged in the case, according to the Associated Press.
Sharp will not have to give up his farm and home, but he will have to pay $500,000 to the government and give up property he owns in Florida—payback for the $1 million he was allegedly paid for his participation in the cartel.
His prison date has not yet been set.