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Court: After 13-year fight, Clarissa Glenn eligible for innocence certificate

Clarissa Glenn (center) looks on as family of Anthony McDaniels speak to reporters Monday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, where prosecutors dropped their case against McDaniels, who claimed he'd been framed by officers working with corrupt former CPD sergeant Ronald Watts. Glenn is awaiting a certificate of innocence, years after she was pardoned in a drug case built on bogus testimony by Watts. | Provided photo

Clarissa Glenn looked on Monday as prosecutors dropped their case against Anthony McDaniels, the latest criminal defendant to have their conviction tossed because of the involvement of disgraced CPD sergeant Ronald Watts.

Glenn has come to haunt the courthouse in recent years, as a wave of convictions tainted by Watts — who was charged in 2012 with shaking down residents of the Ida B. Wells housing projects in a long-running extortion scheme — have been overturned. A wave that started with Glenn and her husband, Ben Baker.

Glenn’s next trip to the Leighton Criminal Court Building should come in the next few weeks, for an appearance before Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., to receive a certificate of innocence for a drug conviction she received based on false testimony by Watts and officers working under his command.

A state Appeals Court earlier this month ruled that Glenn was entitled to a certificate, and the counseling and job assistance and other benefits it entails, even though the law creating the certificates seems to apply only to defendants who served jail time as a result of wrongful conviction.

“I already have a frame picked out because I’m going to hang it up,” Glenn said in a phone interview. “I think I’m just going to showboat it for a while, because I didn’t think it was ever going to happen for me.”

For 13 years, Glenn has been trying to get a certificate of her own, final proof that she was framed by Watts’ crew.

Glenn was on hand when Baker received his certificate of innocence in 2016, and again in November, when 10 men who had served time on bogus convictions built on false testimony by Watts and his fellow officers also received their certificates from Martin. Five other men had had their Watts-tainted convictions overturned with those 10, but Martin said that a technicality prevented him to from handing them certificates.

Spotting Glenn in the courtroom, the judge cited her case and opined that the law only allowed for certificates for wrongfully convicted people who had served jail time. Glenn pleaded guilty in exchange for a probation-only sentence rather than risk a trial, because Baker had already been sentenced to 14 years in prison on another bogus drug case pinned on him by Watts.

Her 2005 conviction — she pleaded guilty to get her probation-only sentence rather than risk getting prison at trial, leaving the couple’s three children alone — is the only blot on her criminal record. But the conviction got her thrown out of a home-ownership program and has made it hard for her to find steady work. Despite the challenge of raising three children on her own, Glenn found the time to lobby attorneys to help with her case, as well as countless hours spent lodging complaints with police, prosecutors, and lawmakers.

“This is my life. I went through a whole lot,” Glenn said. “I just want people to know that I’ve been telling the truth from day one.”

With an opinion earlier this month, Appeals Court Judge P. Scott Neville noted Glenn’s long struggle.

“Issuing the certificate provides some small measure of acknowledgment of the sacrifice Glenn and Baker made in their effort to bring the rule of law to Chicago,” Neville wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

Baker was arrested in March for selling heroin to a federal informant, a case Glenn declined to talk about.