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Innocence certificates withheld for 5 exonerated men

Chicago Wednesday 10-9-13 After being found guilty, former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts leaves the Dirksen Federal Building after receiving a 22 month sentence for his role in an FBI sting Wednesday afternoon 10-9-13. Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

CHICAGO — A Cook County, Illinois, judge has refused to grant innocence certificates to five men allegedly framed with drug charges by a Chicago police sergeant.

Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. ruled Thursday that because the men only received probation as a result of former Sgt. Ronald Watts’ actions, they don’t qualify for the certificates.

Martin encouraged lawyers for the men to file an appeal, saying he would “be OK with the appellate court reversing” him.

Defense attorney Joshua Tepfer said he would appeal Martin’s ruling.

In February, the judge granted certificates of innocence to nine other men who served prison time based on convictions built on false testimony by Watts and members of the tactical unit he commanded. Watts was charged with and convicted of shaking down an FBI informant.