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Press Release

Man With a “Long-Term Relationship With Lawlessness” Sentenced to Over Six Years in Prison for Possessing a Gun

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Possessed a Loaded Gun Despite Multiple Prior Felony Convictions

A man who has a lengthy criminal history and possessed a loaded gun and drugs was sentenced today to more than six years in federal prison.

Zaire Young, age 34, from Waterloo, Iowa, received the prison term after a December 7, 2020 guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

At the guilty plea, Young admitted he possessed a firearm after felony convictions for possession of cocaine base with the intent to distribute, drug tax stamp, and eluding.  Evidence in the case showed that Young was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by law enforcement in May 2020.  Officers found a loaded gun inside the car.  Young admitted possessing the gun.  He also had marijuana in his pocket. 

In a previous written order, the court described Young as having a “long-term relationship with lawlessness—spanning more than two decades.”  The court also noted that prior to his federal charge, Young had “willfully flouted the law, disregarded authority, and disobeyed the orders of every court he has appeared before.”

Young was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Young was sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN).  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.  Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.  For more information about Project Guardian, please see /media/1122011/download?inline.

Young is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Emily K. Nydle and was investigated by a Federal Task Force composed of the Waterloo Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, assisted by the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office and Cedar Falls Police Department. 

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-cr-2040.

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Updated May 23, 2021

Project Guardian
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses