18 More Wrongful Convictions Linked To Corrupt Chicago Cop To Be Tossed
Eighteen people whose criminal convictions were linked to corrupt Chicago cop Sgt. Ronald Watts will have their charges dismissed on Monday. The wrongful convictions will be thrown out by Judge Leroy Martin Jr. of the Criminal Court. The 18 new exonerations will bring to 42 the total number of wrongful convictions thrown out since 2016 as a result of Watts’ corruption.
Chicago state’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s spokesman, Robert Foley, confirmed the mass exoneration coming up on Monday. But he did not elaborate further on the issue until possibly after the event. This forthcoming mass discharge is the first of such events in Cook County.
It is possible that many more cases linked to Watts and his corrupt team will be overturned when the state attorney general office’s Conviction Integrity Unit completes their review.
Police Top Brass Were Aware of Watts’ Corruptions But Allowed Him to Continue to Operate
It is estimated that up to 100 people suffered wrongful convictions under the tyranny of Watts. The corrupt police officer carried on with his abuse of power at the Ida B. Wells public housing complex. Some accused Watts of planting drugs on them when they refused to pay protection money to his team. Many alleged he framed them after stealing from them. And yet others said they pleaded guilty after his team shot at them and beat them up.
Senior police authorities were aware of Watts’ underhanded operations at Ida B. Wells. Despite mounting complaints and evidence against him, the police top brass allowed him and his team to continue with their patrol and activities at the housing complex – forcing drug dealers to pay money to be protected from the law. They accosted people on the streets at random and asked them to pay up to $5,000 or have drug evidence planted on them.
The corrupt Chicago cop remained on the job even when the state’s attorney office and the FBI ran internal investigations against him. For up to 10 years, Watts and his cohorts were the law unto themselves. African-Americans and Hispanics bore the brunt of his extortions or got imprisoned. He was finally convicted on federal charges in 2012 and sent to prison for 22 months. He was released in 2015.
His career came to an end when he taxed a drug courier who happened to be an FBI informant. However, many of the police officers who worked directly under him remain on the force today. According to internal documents, many of them were the subject of FBI investigations but were never formally charged. Fifteen of them were relegated to desk duty until investigations into their activities with Watts can be completed.
Many with Dismissed Cases May Still File Federal Lawsuits against the Government
Joshua Tepfer, an attorney for the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School and lead attorney for 12 of the 18 persons to be exonerated blamed the government for Watts’ reign of corruption.
“My clients told everyone about it, and no one believed them,” said Tepfer. “They told police investigators, they told judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors. Their complaints were dismissed and ignored.”
Most of the latest overturned indictments were for drug convictions instituted from 2003 to 2008. Some of the accused in these cases were sentenced to probation, with many others sentenced to up to four years in prison. With the mass exoneration, the incarcerated will be released to go home. Many of the men have turned back to file federal lawsuits against Watts and the police department.
Twenty-three federal lawsuits or more for wrongful convictions relating to Watts are still in the court. It is possible that after the 18 men have their convictions dismissed on Monday, that these convictions will be next.