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A purported member of York City's Southside gang sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for illegally possessing a handgun is a good example of how prosecuting cases in federal court, rather than in common pleas courts, can result in harsher prison sentences — and that translates to keeping criminals off the street for longer, York City's police chief said.

Chief Wes Kahley said his department continues to work with federal prosecutors in an effort to move the criminal cases of gang members and other violent criminals into the federal system.

"We're tired of the violence in our city and we're going to use whatever tools we can to ensure those acting in a violent manner and those illegally carrying firearms get prosecuted to the fullest extent we can," he said. "It's a much larger bang for the buck."

A typical sentence in York County Common Pleas Court for the same offense is five years, the chief confirmed.

Charles Leonard Swan Jr., 35, of York City, pleaded guilty in federal court May 22, 2014, to being an illegal felon in possession of a firearm, according to federal court records.

On Jan. 12, he was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1,600 in fines, records state.

Federal law mandates a minimum 15-year sentence for felons caught with guns if they have already racked up three or more convictions for drug dealing or violent crimes, according to Dawn Mayko, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg.

Criminal record: York County court records reveal Swan pleaded no contest in November 2000 to three counts of drug delivery in one case and one count of drug delivery in a second case. He then pleaded guilty in 2006 to drug possession with intent to deliver.

He was charged in 2004 with being a felon in illegal firearm possession, but that charge was dismissed, records state.

Kahley confirmed Swan is someone city officers "dealt with in the past" on multiple occasions.

It was York City officers' arrest of Swan that led to his 15-year sentence, according to the chief.

The arrest: About 10 p.m. July 12, 2012, city officers tried to pull over a vehicle with a suspended registration and burned-out brake light near the intersection of South Queen Street and East Boundary Avenue, Kahley said, but driver Swan took off and spurred a police chase.

"When officers were chasing him, he tried to throw a handgun (out the window), which they recovered," he said. "It turned out to be stolen from West Manchester Township."

Swan bailed out of the vehicle and tried to flee on foot, but officers overtook and arrested him, according to Kahley.

The new normal: The chief said Swan might soon have company.

"When we get convicted felons with a violent (or drug-dealing) background, we'll be presenting those cases on a regular basis to the U.S. Attorney's Office for federal prosecution," Kahley said.

City officers, federal investigators and federal prosecutors joined forces to conduct a two-year probe into York City's Southside gang that led to federal indictments against 21 purported gang members.

The racketeering and drug-dealing indictments were handed down in September 2014. Since then, 12 men were convicted, eight others pleaded guilty and one awaits trial.

Kahley has said Southside used violence and intimidation to protect their drug turf.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com

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