It's true: Clint Eastwood's 2018 film “The Mule” was based on an incident that happened right here in Michigan.

Seven years earlier in 2011, 87-year-old horticulturist Leo Sharp was pulled over as he drove his pickup truck on I-94 near Ann Arbor. Upon searching the vehicle, police found approximately 104 kilos (three million dollars worth) of cocaine.

There were about a dozen Drug Enforcement officials who were spread out along I-94, from Kalamazoo to Jackson. After many months of investigations, it turned out to be “the biggest cocaine operation Detroit authorities had ever seen” (Free Press).

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In the film, Leo's name was changed to 'Earl Stone' and the arrest took place in Illinois instead of Michigan.

Leo was charged with possessing and distributing cocaine. In his defense, Leo said he was forced at gunpoint to transport the coke and his family had been threatened as well. He pled guilty to drug conspiracy and was sentenced in 2014 to three years in federal prison. Even though his attorney said Leo had dementia, the judge said she had no choice but to sentence Leo, to avoid others from hiring elderly people to do their work. After sentencing, Leo was quoted as saying “I'm really heartbroken I did what I did. But it's done. I won't live in prison, I'm just going to end my life if I end up there.” Later he told reporters he would “f-ing kill myself”.

In 2015, after being diagnosed with a terminal illness and given only up to nine months to live, Leo was granted early release. He lived another year-and-a-half and passed away at age 92 on December 12, 2016.

Sharp's grave is in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

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