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HAMMOND — A judge is giving federal prosecutors 12 weeks to decide whether a couple of motorcycle club members should be tried on capital murder charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon on Monday gave the U.S. Department of Justice a deadline on whether to pursue the death penalty against Ronnie E. Major or Antoine J. Gates.
The 51-year-old Major and 44-year-old Gates, both of Gary, are pleading not guilty to murder-for-hire charges.
They stand accused of carrying out the premeditated killing of Jocelyn Blair, 31, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Blair was inside a diner at 24th and Broadway in Gary during the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 2010, when Gates allegedly entered and killed her in a barrage of gunfire.
The federal grand jury indictment — pursued by the U.S. attorney’s office in Hammond — alleges Major paid Gates $10,000 to kill Blair to prevent her from testifying against Major at an upcoming Lake Criminal Court attempted murder trial in Crown Point.
Prosecutors allege Major and Gates worked out the deal at the Sin City Deciples’ clubhouse near Eighth and Virginia in downtown Gary where both were members.
The murder charges the two men face make them eligible to be tried for capital murder, although it remain unclear whether federal prosecutors will really pursue the ultimate penalty.