9 more convictions from disgraced Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts vacated

Mark Rivera Image
Sunday, July 25, 2021

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nine more convictions connected to disgraced former Chicago Police Sergeant Ronald Watts were thrown out at the request of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx Friday.

Tinere Johnson was two months pregnant when she said Watts set her up on drug charges during his reign of terror.

Johnson said she didn't know what to do when Watts and his team rounded her up on drugs charges at the Ida B Wells Homes in March 2008.

"I'm two, three months pregnant with my first child, so I was really scared and really mad and shocked that these people really did that to me," Johnson said.

Pregnant and frightened, Johnson said she pleaded guilty to avoid a prison sentence and was released from the county jail on probation. For more than a decade, that guilty plea hung over her.

"It messed up job opportunities, it messes up housing. A lot of people don't want to deal with people with drug backgrounds," Johnson said.

Now, that's all changed. A judge honored the request from the Cook County State's Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit to vacate Johnson's conviction along with eight other convictions connected to Watts. The total Watts-related convictions reversed so far is 109, according to the state's attorney.

"It's not even just the time he took from these men and these women and their community, but it's the long term harm he's done to our justice system when people have lost faith, when police officers come to hurt and not heal," Foxx said.

She added a warning to those who abuse their authority.

"We will not tolerate at the Cook County State's Attorney's office convictions that were ill gotten by corrupt law enforcement. You won't find a home here," Foxx said.

Now that Johnson's conviction has been vacated, she said she is seeking a certificate of innocence so she can put this 13 year violation behind her.

"A burden is off my shoulder. I feel so much better with my life now," she said.

Her attorney Joel Flaxman said the certificate should take a month or so to obtain.

"Some measure of justice has finally been done for her and the other people who had their convictions vacated," Flaxman said.