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Federal judge sentences Gary drug leader to prison
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Federal judge sentences Gary drug leader to prison

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HAMMOND — A Gary man is going to prison for helping lead an illicit drug network for several years.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon imposed a 228-month prison term Monday on 42-year-old Yahtzee “Black” Harris.

Harris pleaded guilty in July 2019 to selling crack cocaine in Gary between July 2015 and November 2016, while armed with a gun from several locations in Gary’s Glen Park neighborhood.

A federal grand jury indicted Harris and 20 other men and women in 2017 following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s GRIT (Gang Response Investigative Team), along with Lake County, Gary and Hobart police.

A federal jury acquitted one of the women, but prosecutors have won convictions of 18 others, most of whom have now been sentenced.

Harris had faced a maximum penalty of life imprisonment because federal prosecutors argued Harris was involved in the homicide of 57-year-old Lydell "Kitchen" McLaurin, of Gary.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra McTague and Thomas R. Mahoney argued late last year the drug operation’s members carried out the killing in revenge for their suspicion that McLaurin cooperated with the police investigation.

Prosecutors admitted they couldn’t prove who shot 57-year-old McLaurin 13 times shortly after a Nov. 5, 2016, police raid that shut down the drug operation. His body was found in an alley in the 3900 block of Jackson Street in Gary.

Simon ruled in January the government hadn’t proved Harris was involved in that homicide.

Harris' defense attorney, John Maksimovich, said in a memo he had written earlier to the court that Harris, who has a total of nine children, dropped out of Lew Wallace High School in the 10th grade and became a crack cocaine user at the age of 18.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail

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