Imprisoned Inmate Offers Further Evidence That Officers Railroaded Neighbors on South Side

A Chicago man who has served nearly a decade in prison says he was the victim of a crew of crooked police officers on Chicago’s South Side. And to bolster his argument, he’s offering the cases of 13 other individuals who say they were framed, robbed, or even beaten by the same officers.

Anthony McDaniels insists those officers, part of a tactical team led by Sgt. Ronald Watts, planted a gun on him, resulting in a 2008 arrest and conviction on firearms charges. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Already at least three individuals have seen their criminal cases overturned after making a case that they were framed by Watts or members of his crew. And McDaniels’ attorney Joshua Tepfer says his client is simply one more.

“Does the State’s Attorney’s office feel confident that the word of these officers can suffice to keep Anthony McDaniels locked in prison?” Tepfer asked. “I don’t know how any prosecuting agency or any individual could feel that this conviction should stay intact!”

Tepfer says he has discovered at least eight complaints filed by individuals who said they were likewise framed or robbed by members of Watts’ crew. The names of the complainants in those reports were redacted by the City. But now, Tepfer says five new individuals have come forward by name, making similar claims.

Tepfer says one of those people, Lee Rainey, says that the officers planted heroin and cocaine on him, and that when he complained to police, it was Watts himself who was assigned to investigate the complaint.

“Thirteen new examples we’ve been able to identify thus far,” he said. “To facilitate their part of the drug trade they would plant cases or frame individuals for crimes, as part of their criminal enterprise.”

Watts and one of his officers, Khalatt Mohammed were eventually charged federally and served time in prison. None of the other officers has ever been charged, despite the fact that two officers working undercover declared that the whole unit was corrupt.

“It’s not me saying they were corrupt,” says Tepfer. “It’s the Cook County State’s Attorney saying they were corrupt, the Chicago Police Department saying they were corrupt!”

Two of the now-exonerated individuals, Ben Baker and Clarissa Glenn have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago. Tepfer notes that as part of that suit, officer Mohammed took the fifth when asked if he had ever planted guns or drugs on a civilian.

Last February, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Fox agreed to examine cases involving individuals who were still in prison. Three months later, a spokesman declined to elaborate on exactly where that review stands.

“We have been actively investigating these cases for well over three months,” said spokesperson Tandra Simonton. “Our office has agreed to meet (and has met) with attorneys for any defendant who believes they were actually innocent of the crime they were convicted of. As with all post-conviction cases, we are committed to resolving our investigations quickly and thoroughly as soon as possible.”

Simonton insisted Tuesday that the State’s Attorney’s investigation goes beyond incarcerated individuals. But she provided no number of how many cases were under review.

“We cannot provide a hard number as this is an open and fluid evaluation of all cases that are brought to our attention.”

Wondering aloud why McDaniels is still in custody, Tepfer noted that Fox’s predecessor Anita Alvarez took just 29 days to free Ben Baker from prison after his case was filed.

“Same identical circumstances, same police officers,” he said.

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