88 demand drug convictions be thrown out, say they were framed by corrupt ex-CPD Sgt. Ronald Watts

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Eighty-eight people are demanding their drug convictions be thrown out, saying they were framed by former CPD Sgt. Ronald Watts, who was convicted of corruption.

A petition filed Tuesday asks for their cases to be exonerated so they can move on with their lives.

The suit was filed by dozens of residents of the now-demolished Ida B. Wells home on the South Side, who said they were terrorized for 10 years, starting in 2002, by Watts.

"I'm just trying to get my life back together," said Crystal Allen, petitioner. "I have five children I have to provide for, and with this over my background it's kind of hard for me to get the job that I need."

"Sgt. Ronald Watts was a criminal, he went to prison and he spent a decade allegedly patrolling the area with a corrupt tactical team," said Josh Tepfer, Exoneration Project. "But what he was really doing was facilitating his own drug trade, his own gun line, gun trace, planting cases on anyone and everyone who got in his way."

All 88 petitioners have served their time. They want their record cleared.

"At the time Watts kicked in my door, I didn't have any money for no attorney," said Gregory Young, petitioner. "So all I could do was go to court and then end up in the penitentiary. And I'll never get that time back."

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has been investigating some of these exoneration requests for three years, others for one year.

"What the state's attorney told us and said publicly is we're reviewing them, and it's our position that they've had enough time to review them," said Joe Flaxman, attorney.

One hundred nine drug cases connected to Watts have already been vacated during the past five years.

"Hoping our 10 volumes of evidence, our 90 page petition will finally achieve a level of justice for so many of those individuals that it's eluded so far," Tepfer said.

Watts spent a year and a half in prison after he and another officer in his unit pleaded guilty to corruption in 2013. There is an ongoing CPD internal investigation in others officers associated with Watts who are still on the force.