Calls For Freedom in Another Watts Case

Cook County prosecutors say they are at least considering the petition of still another defendant who says he fell victim to disgraced Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and the tactical team he ran on Chicago’s South Side.

Last week, prosecutors vacated the convictions of 15 men who had long contended they were framed by Watts and his crew. “In good conscience,” said assistant State’s Attorney Mark Rotert, “we could not let these convictions stand.”

But there are plenty more defendants waiting in the wings. Among them, a man named Anthony McDaniels, who was arrested on gun charges in November of 2008.

McDaniels has long contended the gun was planted by members of Watts’ team.

“There’s three officers who testified,” defense attorney Joshua Tepfer said Wednesday. “Those three officers have all been tied to many of the 26 convictions overturned, based on allegations that those officers were involved in the day to day corruption of Sgt. Watts.”

Initially, prosecutors balked at McDaniels’ petition. But in court Wednesday, they suggested that position might be changing.

“In light of the events of last week, we are reviewing this case again,” assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala told judge Arthur Hill. “We are still looking into this case.”

After court, Tepfer praised prosecutors for their willingness to keep an open mind.

“We’re really pleased with the way everything is progressing,” he said. “We’re certainly disappointed Anthony is not going to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his lovely sisters and his mother, but we do hope he’s home by Christmas.”

It is likely Watts and his crew were responsible for many hundreds of arrests during the years they operated in the former Ida B. Wells housing project. Many critics have argued that none of those arrests should be allowed to stand.

Tepfer conceded the McDaniels case involves a gun charge, as opposed to the drug cases tossed out last week. But the facts, he notes, bear one important similarity.

“They key factor is that it revolves around the credibility of these officers,” Tepfer said. “And that credibility is nil.”

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