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15 exonerated men suing city over CPD’s alleged ‘code of silence’

Former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts is shown leaving the Dirksen Federal Building in 2013. He'd just been sentenced to 22 months in prison after being found guilty. | Sun-Times file photo

Fifteen men whose convictions were overturned last year after saying they were framed by corrupt former Chicago cop Ronald Watts are filing separate lawsuits against the city.

The lawsuits were filed separately Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court and seek an unspecified amount in damages for the City of Chicago’s alleged complicity in the police department’s “code of silence.”

The convictions of all 15 men — who had 18 cases against them — were overturned on Nov. 16, 2017, according to a statement from Loevy & Loevy, the law firm representing the group.

Among the allegations leveled in the suits is that the Chicago Police Department’s “code of silence” allowed Watts to extort bribes and fabricate arrest reports on residents of the now-razed Ida B. Wells housing project on the South Side.

The City of Chicago, after learning of Watts’ abuses during an eight-year FBI investigation, turned a blind eye to that “code of silence” and refused to reform the department, leading to the fabricated charges against the men, the lawsuits allege.

The city is “directly liable for the injuries … because the City and CPD maintained official policies and customs that were the moving force behind the violation of Plaintiff’s rights,” one of the lawsuits reads. The “actions of the final policymaking officials for the City and CPD were the moving force behind the violation of Plaintiff’s rights.”

Fourteen of the men had been convicted on drug charges, and one man was convicted on a gun charge.

Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed — who was also named in many of the lawsuits —were convicted on federal charges in 2013. Watts was sentenced to almost two years in prison for stealing money from a drug dealer who was working as an FBI informant.