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Foxx weighing decision in another Ronald Watts case

Former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts

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

Anthony McDaniels will not be out of prison in time for Thanksgiving, but his lawyers are holding out hope he will be home in time for Christmas, after Cook County prosecutors said Wednesday they are reviewing his allegations that he was framed by a team of corrupt Chicago Police officers who planted a gun on him in 2008.

The story in McDaniels’ petition to overturn his case is similar to those of 15 men who last week were exonerated of convictions that had been based on testimony by former Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers on the South Side tactical unit he commanded.

McDaniels is nine years into a 12-year sentence on a gun charge.

Watts and fellow officer Kallatt Mohammed were arrested in 2012, and spent time in prison for shaking down a drug courier who was working as an FBI informant.

In the last two years, more than 20 cases where defendants claim they were framed by Watts and his subordinates have been overturned, including the decision by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx last week to wipe out, en masse, convictions involving 15 men.

“(With) the events of last week, in which there were other cases dismissed, we are reviewing this case again,” Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala told Judge Arthur Hill.

Joshua Tepfer, the attorney representing McDaniels and the 15 men exonerated last week, said the ongoing review was a good sign, and that prosecutors have conceded that the case at least requires a evidentiary hearing.

“What happened last week was extraordinary,” Tepfer said. “It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and there just weren’t enough people in the (prosecutors’ office) today to make it happen today.”

Federal prosecutors said Watts routinely used his police powers to shake down drug dealers working in the South Side areas he patrolled, and McDaniels claims officers working for Watts planted a gun on him after he refused to pay them.

The officers who testified against McDaniels both have figured prominently in other cases that were overturned, and McDaniels has asserted he was framed throughout his trial and appeals.

McDaniels points out that there are significant differences in his account of his arrest and testimony from the officers.

McDaniels claims he was approached by police as he walked to his car, and that they planted the gun on him after he refused to hand over cash. Police reports state that McDaniels was a passenger in a car, and dropped a gun with a defaced serial number as he ran from police. But the gun entered into evidence had an intact serial number.

McDaniels’ petition points out that a tow truck driver said McDaniels car was towed from in front of his house to an impound yard, while officers testified the car was found in an alley and Mohammed drove it to the impound lot.

“This case rests on the credibility of these officers,” Tepfer said. “And that credibility is nil.”