Chicago Police

19 More Convictions Tied to Corrupt Chicago Police Sgt. Watts Overturned

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The convictions of 19 more people whose cases were connected to disgraced Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts were overturned Tuesday, with dozens more up for review in the coming weeks.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Erica Reddick granted petitions to vacate the convictions of 19 of the 83 remaining individuals who have asked the court for relief after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office would not oppose the requests of 48 of those 83 people.

“We were able to provide the relief to right the wrongs of the past but make no mistake, this is a sorrowful, sorrowful moment, knowing that these individuals will never get that time back in their lives,” Foxx said at a news conference following Tuesday’s hearing.

“Once again I find myself in the position of offering an apology to those individuals who were caught up not only in a crime that they didn’t commit, but again caught up by those who were sworn to protect them,” Foxx continued.

“To me, she is not the one who needs to be apologizing and the lack of apology from everyone else is astonishing,” said Exoneration Project attorney Joshua Tepfer, who represents some of the individuals whose convictions were vacated Tuesday.

Watts and his team worked for more than a decade in the former Ida B. Wells housing project on Chicago's South Side. He and one other officer were ultimately convicted of corruption charges and served time in prison.

More than 100 convictions related to the Watts scandal have been overturned in recent years, while the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s investigation has dragged on.  

Foxx acknowledged Tuesday that many of the officers who were under Watts' command remain on the force, even though the State’s Attorney has made clear that the majority of those officers can't be trusted and will never again be called as witnesses in court.

“Our office continues to maintain a policy of not calling these officers in cases that are pending before the courts today,” Foxx said. “These officers have lost the ability to have credibility within these courts and what happens to them administratively or with their employment is something that needs to be reconciled with the city and the Chicago Police Department.”

“I do want to call on the city to finally take some action and hold these officers accountable,” defense attorney Joel Flaxman said. “We’ve heard a lot about Watts, who’s off the force – but many of his team members are still there, are still drawing a salary, and we have investigations at the city that have not gone anywhere for four years.”

Two more hearings on many of the remaining petitions are scheduled for this month, one on Feb. 8 and the other on Feb. 16, where dozens more individuals are seeking to have their Watts-related convictions overturned.

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