87 Year Old Busted With 228 Pounds of Cocaine

Supposedly, it was a routine traffic stop on I-94 near Ann Arbor, MI that resulted in the seizure of 228 pounds of cocaine in the back of 87 year old Leon Earl Sharp's pick-up truck. Sharp, who is from Indiana, was released on bond, but not before he told the judge he was worried about having a stroke, someone had stolen his passport and that he had been forced at gunpoint to transport the drugs. For some reason, everyone in the courtroom found this funny:

Someone snickered again. It was contagious, spreading through the gallery. Randon, the judge, tried to stifle a laugh by covering his mouth. Then, he shook his head and smiled.


Sharp definitely has some marbles left. He refused the cop's request to allow a search of his truck. Not that it mattered in the end -- the cop put in a call to a canine officer requesting a dog, for which consent isn't needed. (details from Complaint, available on PACER.)

What was the reason the cop asked to search Mr. Sharp's vehicle in the first place when he was pulled over for following too closely and improper lane use? Maybe the cop started asking Sharp questions about where he was going and had been (which he didn't have to answer but like most people, did), and thought he gave inconsistent answers. But why assume drugs rather than dementia? Given his age, it seems unlikely drug trafficking would pop into the average officer's mind. p>Also curious: The Complaint charges him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, but not possession with intent to distribute. There's no mention of any other persons in the Complaint.

Sharp told the judge he's never taken an illegal drug in his life. The stop occurred during rush hour on Friday on I-94. Hardly prime DUI hour and there's no mention in the Complaint of him appearing under the influence of anything.

I can't imagine what reasonable suspicion the cop had to radio for a canine officer to bring in a drug dog after an 87 year old driver refused a search for such a minor offense.

Is it being too cynical to think this was no random traffic stop, that the DEA knew from wiretaps or an informant that Sharp would be transporting the drugs, and his travel route, and asked the local police to be on the lookout and make the stop?

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    Gotta wonder how many times he's made this run. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 12:21:41 AM EST

    My home town, where the geezers mule... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 12:10:43 AM EST
    $10,000 bond for 105 kilos of cocaine?  Leon sure is lucky they didn't force him to transport a couple of ounces of crack.

    Pretty amazing that the court set (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 12:43:13 AM EST
    bond at $10,000 given 226 lbs. of cocaine in defendant's possession.  Is there a bail schedule for federal court and does this bond comply with the schedule?  

    bail works totally differently (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:00:48 AM EST
    in federal court. In drug case, the issue often is whether the government asks for detention and no bail . If it does, the AUSA  has a low standard of proof to establish the defendnant is either a flight risk or a risk to the community. Then the fefendant has to revut the presumption. If he doesn't, he get's detained, no bond.

    But if the court decides to grant bond, it must be in an amount the defendant can meet. There are no bail persons in most federal juridisctions. The court acts as the bail person. For example, a $10,000 bond can often be posting with 10% to the court, with the money being returned at the end of the case. Or it can be a real estate bond. Or any other number of things, like a $10k bond secured by the defendnan's signature.

    Sounds like this guy wasn't detainable -- rich enough to post a cash bond, so he posted a pr bond or a bond signed by someone he knew or by himself. h


    last sentence should read (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 04:03:30 AM EST
    if he wasn't rich enough to post a cash bond, he might have been allowed to post a pr bond or a bond signed by someone he knew who promised to assist him in making court appearances. There is no schedule.

    Uhhhh yeah (none / 0) (#6)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 07:49:54 AM EST
    I think wiretaps or an informant are pretty much a given at this point :)

    For all we know... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 07:59:21 AM EST
    the old timer got flaked.

    He may have (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:04:55 AM EST
    But the cops knew he was coming.  That is just flat out obvious

    He says he wants to write a book (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by jbindc on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:21:30 AM EST
    Of course he does.

    I would read it (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:38:39 AM EST
    It would likely beat a lot of other books out there.  This link had us rolling on the floor last night watching DVRd Colbert shows.

    Following to closely? (none / 0) (#11)
    by coast on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:11:29 AM EST
    Isn't rush hour typically bumper-to-bumper?

    Driving while 87. (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:33:00 AM EST
    He was ordered (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 11:34:25 AM EST
    to undergo a mental examination.

    How much you wanna bet (none / 0) (#14)
    by scribe on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 12:17:12 PM EST
    his dad was a bootlegger?

    But, more to the point, the inability of the judge to control himself points up a lack of judicial demeanor.  I once was in court for a motion hearing, where one of the hearings preceding mine was over forfeiting a car for having been used in trafficking drugs.  In that case, the trafficking was sharing a joint, but the part that got everyone was the description of how, after sharing the joint with the snitch, the two of them went out for a drive which included putting an M80 into and blowing up a rural mailbox shaped like a pink flamingo.

    The gallery appreciated his acting as the Good Taste Police, so much so that we all had tears running down our cheeks from forcing ourselves to keep straight faces.  And the judge did not bust out laughing, though she did deny the forfeiture motion and set it for trial.

    I wonder who will laugh if the guys who put the coke in his truck make good on their implicit promise.

    Actually (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 12:40:15 PM EST
    The judge tried to help him out:

    "Mr. Sharp, we are trying to get you home to Indiana," U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Randon said, warning him to keep quiet. "Help me help you."

    Also, there's more to this story:

    The octogenarian wore a faded green jailhouse uniform Monday and nervously licked his lips while awaiting his hearing seated on a wooden bench between a child pornography suspect and a man charged with felony firearm possession.

    Both ignored Sharp as he tried to chat. A deputy U.S. marshal shushed him.

    Several assistant U.S. attorneys and law-enforcement officers watching nearby snickered.

    Most routine court hearings pass without the defendant saying much beyond simple "yes" or "no" answers.

    Sharp, however, ignored the judge's advice to keep quiet.

    At one point, Sharp said he couldn't hear the judge. Sharp said he lost his hearing after a cannon fired during "the war," though he didn't say which one.

    Randon asked Sharp, who has worked as a truck driver for 40 years and is married with three children, if he could read.

    "I can probably read as well or better than anybody," Sharp said.

    Sharp told the judge he's writing a book about the arrest.

    Then, he hinted at a sinister plot.

    "I was forced to do what I did by gunpoint," Sharp said.

    Someone in the gallery gasped.

    Sharp said his passport was stolen, prompting more snickers from the gallery.

    The snickers proved contagious, spreading through the gallery.

    Randon tried to stifle a laugh by covering his mouth. Then, he shook his head and smiled.

    The U.S. Marshals didn't do their (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 01:04:43 PM EST
    job.  But I guess it's pretty hard if the judge is also snickering.