Nine more people saw their drug convictions tossed Friday by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office as part of an ongoing review of cases tied to former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts.
For the last several years, prosecutors have been re-investigating cases connected to Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed, who were convicted in federal court after they were recorded during a sting operation taking $5,200 from an FBI informant.
Both disgraced officers pleaded guilty in 2013; Watts was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison, and Mohammed received 18 months.
During a short hearing Friday, an assistant state’s attorney said prosecutors were moving to vacate the convictions of seven men and two women before dropping the cases.
The motion was granted by Chief Criminal Court Judge Erica Reddick.
Lloyd Newman, who had his conviction tossed Friday, was a subject and producer of the Peabody award-winning 1996 National Public Radio series “Ghetto Life 101” when he was 14, his attorney said.
Ten years later, Newman was leaving his sister’s apartment at the Ida B. Wells public housing complex when Watts and another officer stopped and searched him, his attorney said.
Watts ended up framing Newman for drug possession, which resulted in Newman being sentenced to two years in prison, his attorney said.
Last December, six drug cases tied to Watts and Mohammed were dropped, bringing the number of overturned convictions tied to the former officers to more than 100.
As of Friday, 109 people have had their Watts-related convictions overturned, the state’s attorney’s office said.
”There’s a lingering pit in my stomach due to the real sorrow that for so long Sergeant Watts and his crew were able to terrorize and criminalize a community. Today, we were able to bring some justice to nine people who were targeted and victimized by former Sergeant Watts,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement Friday. “Former Sergeant Watts has caused irreparable damage to our community, but he also undermined the integrity of our justice system which harms us all.”
While advocates for the former defendants have praised the work of prosecutors and judges for reviewing and dismissing the convictions, they continued to be critical of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which is tasked with investigating misconduct by Chicago police officers.
COPA “has done nothing, leaving the roughly dozen Watts subordinates tied to the dismissed cases as active members of CPD,” members of the Exoneration Project, a not-for-profit legal clinic at the University of Chicago, wrote Friday.