Cocaine dealer sentenced to 38 years in prison

A local man described by a judge as a “major player in the Columbus cocaine scene” has been sentenced to 38 years in prison.

It was the 16th criminal conviction for Ernest L. Young, 52, 717 Maple St., who was sentenced Tuesday by Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge Jim Worton.     

The judge’s description of Young was based on testimony from a Columbus Police officer who was working narcotics at the time of Young’s arrest.    

While on the stand Tuesday, the former undercover investigator said that every person he picked up on cocaine offenses during a three-year period had a drug supply that could, in some way, be traced back to Young.

While the judge suspended six years of the sentence, he also ordered that Young’s time be served consecutively to a four-year prison term Worton handed down last year on charges of domestic battery and battery resulting in bodily injury.   

Originally charged in the latest case with three counts of dealing in cocaine and one count of dealing in methamphetamine, Young consented to a plea agreement March 7 where all other charges would be dropped if he plead guilty to one count of dealing in cocaine as a Class A felony.

Young admitted on the stand Tuesday that on Nov. 4, 2013, he sold one gram of crack cocaine to an informant for $100 in the area of Sixth and Chestnut streets, directly across the street from Central Middle School.   

The drug purchase, which took place in the informant’s car, was conducted under police surveillance during a school day as the sun was beginning to set, the officer testified.   

When such drug deals are made within 1,000 feet of a school, Indiana law allows prosecutors to seek more severe penalties.

The three felonies dismissed in the plea agreement all took place in 2014 within historic residential neighborhoods east of downtown Columbus, court documents state.  

While Young was selling drugs locally over the past 11 years, the Indianapolis native used the nickname ‘Black’ while interacting with customers, court records state. 

Last month, Worton received written letters from Young’s wife and an adolescent daughter. The wife, Jessica Young, told the judge her husband suffers from a number of disabilities including arthritis, a degenerative bone disease, two hernias and bulging discs on his back.

“He had a hard life, and thought the drugs would take the pain away,” the daughter wrote to the judge.

Jessica Young also said she was just weeks away from delivering another child when her husband was arrested. She wrote Worton that a prison term would leave her family destitute.

The judge said he had to consider several aggravating factors in this case.  For example, while Young testified that he had been selling drugs for 30 years, he still refused to describe himself as a drug dealer. 

Instead, Young described himself as a middle man and a hustler who had been forced to fend for himself since being abandoned by family at age 14.    

But in his closing statements, Bartholomew County deputy prosecutor Bryce Wagner took exception with the way Young characterized himself on the stand and refused to admit full responsibility for his own actions.

“He was not a victim. He was creating victims,” the deputy prosecutor told the judge. “He was preying on members of this community.”

In determining an appropriate sentence, Worton said he also had to consider several other local charges dating back to 2013 that include residential entry, receiving stolen auto parts, possession of paraphernalia, driving while suspended, and possession of cocaine.    

On Dec. 19, 2014, Young used a motorcycle to lead police on a pursuit near 10th Street and Hutchins Avenue. After being tracked to a nearby house, Young agreed to surrender only after police threatened to search the residence with a police dog.  After he was apprehended, he was charged with resisting arrest.  

Since Young has not held a regular job for almost 10 years, Worton decided not to use his three children still at home — ages 12, 8 and 1 — as a reason to shorten the prison term.

“Your incarceration will indeed be a hardship for your family,” the judge said. “But the court does not find it will be an undue hardship.”

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.