The defense attorney for a man jailed for nine years based on the testimony of a trio of alleged corrupt officers blasted the State’s Attorney’s office Thursday, accusing prosecutors of dragging their feet in the case.
“If you’re going to fight this case, then you have to fight this case,” an incredulous attorney Joshua Tepfer said outside of court. “You can’t just do nothing!”
Tepfer represents Anthony McDaniels, who was arrested on gun charges in 2008. McDaniels insisted he was framed by a tactical team headed by Sgt. Ronald Watts, who ended up going to prison himself on corruption charges. Three of Watts’ officers who testified against McDaniels have been tied to other cases which have since been overturned.
So far, at least eight convictions tied to the Watts team have been thrown out, on allegations of frame-ups and fabricated evidence.
“This isn’t close---these are criminals,” Tepfer said. “The police are criminals here and my clients are the victims.”
In a petition filed in Criminal Court, Tepfer noted that McDaniels first filed a motion seeking his freedom last March.
“The County now informs petitioner---who is sitting in prison---that the case has not yet even been assigned,” the petition states. “The State’s Attorney’s office cannot have it both ways---it either needs to agree with the request for relief, or it needs to litigate the matter.”
In a statement, the State’s Attorney’s office said it had conducted a thorough review of the case, and that McDaniels’ claim of innocence was not supported by the evidence. And they blamed ongoing delays on Cook County’s budget woes.
“As a result of recent budget cuts and staffing shortages, the Post-Conviction Unit has approximately three full-time attorneys who are currently tasked with handling over 300 cases each,” the statement said. “The State’s Attorney’s Office has recently reassigned another attorney to the Post-Conviction Unit to reallocate resources to this critical area of the office.”
Tepfer questioned the commitment of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who blasted her predecessor Anita Alvarez for failure to act on cases involving allegations of police corruption.
“If they want to uphold this conviction, they need to stand by those officers,” he said. “And that’s apparently what they’re doing.”
Watts and another member of his team, Kallatt Mohammed, both served prison terms four years ago, for allegedly shaking down a man they believed to have been a drug courier. During his guilty plea, Mohammed admitted he and Watts had demanded protection payoffs for years from drug dealers at the former Ida B. Wells Housing Project.
Mohammed served an 18 month term in prison, and Watts was sentenced to 22 months.
NBC5 Investigates has previously reported that two officers who worked undercover investigating the Watts team alleged that the entire unit was corrupt.
“If they want to put those officers on the stand and stand up for those officers, then let’s have the hearing,” Tepfer said. “All three of these officers are, without a doubt, tied to the corruption led by Sergeant Ronald Watts.”