In a case which already promises to become the biggest scandal ever to hit the Chicago Police Department, scores of new individuals are waiting in the wings, insisting they were framed by a tainted crew of police officers who once ruled virtually unchecked at the Ida B. Wells housing project on Chicago’s South Side.
And questions swirl about what the City intends to do about over a dozen officers who may have been involved in the wrongdoing.
Over 30 individuals have already had their cases overturned, the state agreeing that the word of the officers in those cases cannot be trusted and that the suspects were likely framed. Legal experts agree the corruption may have victimized hundreds of neighborhood residents, many of whom were railroaded to prison.
“We all know right from wrong,” Deon Willis said Thursday, standing outside a courtroom at the 26th and California. “If one officer’s doing something he don’t have any business doing, why won’t you speak up and say something?”
Willis said he did a total of five years in prison, and is among the dozens waiting to have their cases considered. Like the others, he says he was set up by Sgt. Ronald Watts and members of his team.
“It’s just a money thing with him,” Willis said. “You know, if you’ve got no money to give him, you made his list, along with his partners.”
Only Watts and one other officer, Kallett Mohammed, were ever held accountable for the operation. But even fellow officers said many others were involved. And after the State’s Attorney agreed to overturn the convictions of more than a dozen men last November, the Chicago Police Department finally pulled 15 officers off the street. Those officers are now on desk duty awaiting their fate.
“Them drawing paychecks is absolutely not adequate, after what’s happened over the last two years and frankly what we’ve known for the last two decades plus,” said attorney Joshua Tepfer, who represents dozens of the exonerated individuals and has at least 34 waiting to learn their fates. “These officers tarnished their badges---they’re criminals, they should be treated that way, and they should not be getting paychecks.”
Attorney Joel Flaxman has six clients who had their cases overturned, and says he has at least ten more coming up.
“For many years, the state and the courts did not take seriously these claims of innocence,” he said. "I think that they should be subject to the same treatment as Watts and Mohammed. They were involved in the same schemes and they’re going to be held accountable in some court.”