Convictions were dismissed Thursday against 15 Black men after they said several dirty Chicago Police officers framed them for bogus drug charges, USA Today reported.
A former police sergeant and his crew of cops forcibly requested “protection payoffs from residents and drug dealers in a city housing project.” The credibility of the convictions against the group, filed from 2003 to 2008, was questioned by Cook County prosecutors, they confirmed to Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. Officer Ronald Watts and his subordinates had operated below board.
“In good conscience, we could not see these convictions stand,” Mark Rotert, who heads the Cook County State’s Attorney’s conviction integrity unit, stated.
More convictions could possibly be overturned by the integrity unit, which vows to review any legitimate complaints brought by plaintiffs charged with crimes that were investigated by Watts.
The mass exoneration of the men, who received probation to nine years in prison, is a rare move. But the cases bring to light more collusion within the beleaguered police department, which has been condemned for using brute force against people of color.
The department has been marred by far-reaching racial bias, poor training and failing oversight of cops who commit misconduct.
But the city maintains that there is “zero tolerance for abuse, misconduct or any unlawful actions” by law enforcement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a joint statement.
“The actions of Ronald Watts must be condemned by all of us, and we will continue our work to ensure the abuses of the past are never repeated in the future,” Emanuel and Johnson stated.
Lawyers for the 15 men petitioned for the drug convictions to be overturned two months ago, USA Today reported. Watts and another officer, Kallat Mohammed, pleaded guilty to stealing money in a drug case involving an FBI informant in 2013. Both were sentenced to stints in federal prison.
Allegations were also brought against Watts for harassing residents in a public housing complex in Chicago’s South Side. As many as 500 convictions of people who said they had drugs planted on them by Watts and his crew for refusing to pay them off are also being investigated, Joshua Tepfer, the lead attorney representing the 15 men, said, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Six officers and one sergeant, who was Watts’ subordinate working on the overturned cases, are serving desk duty pending an internal review, police spokesman Frank Giancamilli confirmed.
The corrupt cops’ actions still are causing pain for the exonerated men. Philip Thomas, 58, one of the petitioners, spent more than six years in prison on trump up charges.
“The better years of my life were spent running from them and then in the penitentiary,” Thomas said.
46 Black Men And Boys Killed By Police
1. Antwon Rose Jr., 171 of 46
2. Robert Lawrence White, 412 of 46
3. Anthony Lamar Smith, 24Source:Getty 3 of 46
4. Ramarley Graham, 18Source:Getty 4 of 46
5. Manuel Loggins Jr., 31Source:Getty 5 of 46
6. Trayvon Martin, 17Source:Getty 6 of 46
7. Wendell Allen, 20Source:Getty 7 of 46
8. Kendrec McDade, 19Source:Getty 8 of 46
9. Larry Jackson Jr., 32Source:Getty 9 of 46
10. Jonathan Ferrell, 24Source:Getty 10 of 46
11. Jordan Baker, 26Source:Getty 11 of 46
12. Victor White lll, 22Source:Getty 12 of 46
13. Dontre Hamilton, 31Source:Getty 13 of 46
14. Eric Garner, 43Source:Getty 14 of 46
15. John Crawford lll, 22Source:Getty 15 of 46
16. Michael Brown, 18Source:Getty 16 of 46
17. Ezell Ford, 25Source:Getty 17 of 46
18. Dante Parker, 36Source:Getty 18 of 46
19. Kajieme Powell, 25Source:Getty 19 of 46
20. Laquan McDonald, 17Source:Getty 20 of 46
21. Akai Gurley, 28Source:Getty 21 of 46
22. Tamir Rice, 12Source:Getty 22 of 46
23. Rumain Brisbon, 34Source:Getty 23 of 46
24. Jerame Reid, 36Source:Getty 24 of 46
25. Charly Keunang, 43Source:Getty 25 of 46
26. Tony Robinson, 19Source:Getty 26 of 46
27. Walter Scott, 50Source:Getty 27 of 46
28. Freddie Gray, 25Source:Getty 28 of 46
29. Brendon Glenn, 29Source:Getty 29 of 46
30. Samuel DuBose, 43Source:Getty 30 of 46
31. Christian Taylor, 19Source:Getty 31 of 46
32. Jamar Clark, 24Source:Getty 32 of 46
33. Mario Woods, 26Source:Getty 33 of 46
34. Quintonio LeGrier, 19Source:Getty 34 of 46
35. Gregory Gunn, 58Source:Getty 35 of 46
36. Akiel Denkins, 24Source:Getty 36 of 46
37. Alton Sterling, 37Source:Getty 37 of 46
38. Philando Castile, 32Source:Getty 38 of 46
39. Terrence Sterling, 31Source:Getty 39 of 46
40. Terence Crutcher, 40Source:Getty 40 of 46
41. Keith Lamont Scott, 43Source:Getty 41 of 46
42. Alfred Olango, 38Source:Getty 42 of 46
43. Jordan Edwards, 15Source:Getty 43 of 46
44. Stephon Clark, 2244 of 46
45. Danny Ray Thomas, 3445 of 46
46. DeJuan Guillory, 2746 of 46