Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx will announce on Thursday that she’s vacating 18 criminal drug convictions of 15 men who were framed by convicted former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his team of officers, making this the first mass exoneration in the county’s history, the Chicago Tribune.
“It’s a remarkable effort by the state’s attorney’s office to recognize the significance of this horrendous injustice and to do their part to start correcting it,” said Joshua Tepfer, the lead attorney representing the 15 men, according to The Tribune.
Tepfer said these 15 exonerees are just a small portion–the “tip of the iceberg”–of what he estimated to be more than 400 convictions by Watts and his corrupt team of officers. A joint petition from the 15 men alleges that the rogue cops framed them between 2003 and 2008. Watts and one of his officers were convicted in federal court in 2013 for stealing drug money from an FBI informant. Scores of residents and drug dealers had accused the Watts of threatening to set them up if they didn’t pay him. In ruling on those complaints, law enforcement and the courts always sided with the officers. However, the state’s attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit uncovered a pattern of suspicious narcotics arrests by Watts’ team that led to the historic exonerations.
The joint petition underscored that there’s a pattern of corruptions that points to a systemic problem with police discipline that perversely protects corrupt cops and penalizes officers who report the bad cops. Two officers who reported Watts and his crew claimed that they were blackballed for blowing a whistle on the corruption. Ultimately, they won a $2 million settlement in their whistleblower lawsuit.
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune