With their only witnesses tainted by what could become the largest scandal to ever hit the Chicago Police Department, Cook County prosecutors threw in the towel today, and granted freedom to a man who has spent the last decade behind bars.
Anthony McDanels had contended from day one that the gun charge on which he was jailed was manufactured by Sgt. Ronald Watts and his tactical team at the Ida B. Wells housing project.
McDaniels was jailed on gun charges in 2008. He was able to finally gain his freedom, after prosecutors agreed that the only officers who could testify in his case were now so tainted, they could never be called to the stand.
Last fall, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office gave police a list of ten officers who would no longer be called as witnesses “due to concerns about their credibility and alleged involvement in the misconduct of Sergeant Watts.” Three of those officers were the only witnesses in McDaniels’ trial.
“Anthony McDaniels was exonerated—-the 24th individual that was overturned because of a rogue and insanely corrupt group of officers,” said defense attorney Joshua Tepfer. “The officers in this case are not welcome in this courtroom.”
Previously in the case, nearly two dozen individuals have seen their cases overturned because the state agreed it was likely they had been framed by officers under Watts’ command.
The scandal was an open secret among residents of the former Ida B. Wells housing project, where Watts and his crew worked for more than a decade. Two undercover officers said they tried to blow the whistle on the alleged corruption for years, only to face ostracism within the department.
Eventually, only Watts and Mohammed were ever criminally charged. But police recently admitted that 15 other officers had been placed on desk duty while they were finally investigated for Watts-related offenses.
“These officers officers have a long and disgraceful history,” Tepfer said. “They’re officers in name only.”
After court, McDaniels sister LaShawn expressed gratitude at the court’s decision.
“It’s just been very, very emotional,” she said. “We know this has been going on in our community for years.”