Former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year turned drug trafficker getting early release from prison
Born in Virginia and raised in South Florida, Lanier won the IMSA GTP title in 1984 and was named Rookie of the Year at the 1986 Indianapolis 500. He even raced at Le Mans for the famous Ferrari-affiliated North American Racing Team and drove for the twelve-time Le Mans winners at Joest Racing. But questions began to arise as to how, exactly, Lanier was financing his racing career. The FBI investigated, and as it turns out, it was through a massive, multi-million-dollar drug trafficking operation.
Together with his partner Ben Kramer (who had ties to Meyer Lansky), Lanier was sentenced in 1988 by federal court in the Southern District of Illinois to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But it seems that life without parole isn't what it used to be, and Lanier is going home. Or almost, anyway. He'll be forced to live in a half-way house for the first six months of his release, and will be under close scrutiny for the next three years. The strange thing is that the same Illinois court that sentenced him and which has now signed his release won't say why he's being set free.
The answer could come down to revised sentencing guidelines that are being applied retroactively by the US federal judicial system, aimed at alleviating the number of Americans incarcerated over drug charges. Just why authorities remain so tight-lipped on the reason for releasing a convicted drug kingpin and alleged murderer, however, remains unclear. But at 60 years old and with a bad hip (possibly resulting from having broken his leg during the Michigan 500 in '86), we wouldn't expect Lanier to pick up his racing career where it left off. According to Autoweek which investigated and broke the story, Lanier will be working at a South Florida classic car museum.
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