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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

No excuse

Sorry, sir, thank you for your service and all that, but you don't get a pass:

A 90-year-old Indiana man who admitted serving as a cocaine courier for a Mexican drug cartel has been sentenced  to three years in federal prison after telling a judge, "I'm truly heartbroken."

Leo Sharp, a decorated World War Two combat veteran who turned 90 on Wednesday, was also sentenced to three years supervised release by Judge Nancy Edmunds in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Sharp had told Edmunds before she sentenced him, "All I can tell you your honor is that I'm really heartbroken that I did what I did. But it's done."

Afterward, Sharp turned to prosecutors and called the three-year prison term a "death sentence."

Sharp's attorneys had asked for supervised release or home confinement, saying he suffers from dementia and other health conditions and needs 24-hour monitoring.

Prosecutors said, however, that Sharp had managed to avoid detection for a decade in part because of his age and was now trying to use his age to shield himself from punishment.

Something can help explain bad behavior without excusing it. I have the same feelings about severe mental illness. I have some sympathy for the idea that people suffering from, say, paranoia, are not in complete conttrol of their actions. But the truth is that the vast majority of people with profound mental illness do not commit heinous acts (and I've known some of them), so it's unfair to them to use mental illness as excuse for illegal acts. Mental illness may make the impulse stsronger, but if you commit murder, you have murder in you.