In what can only be viewed as an exploding scandal, prosecutors told a Cook County judge Tuesday convictions should be set aside for three more individuals, arrested at the hands of a tainted Chicago Police tactical team headed by Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Watts and one of his officers went to prison themselves on charges of shaking down south side drug dealers. The newest cases would mean at least 23 individuals have seen their convictions overturned, including 15 who were exonerated on a single day last November.
“This is a scandal unlike any other,” defense attorney Joshua Tepfer said outside of court. “People were being---like a factory---taking cases and pleading them out, because they knew they couldn’t beat them because you can’t beat corrupt and lying police officers.”
At least 15 officers are under investigation in connection with the case and are now assigned to desk duty.
“It’s like being trapped out there in the cold and nobody will let you in,” said Philip Thomas, who did over five years behind bars. “You guys, lawyers, judges, other police officers, are too quick to believe the word of the police---and all the time the police are lying!”
Thomas was one of nine exonerees who received official certificates of innocence Tuesday. That certification will allow them to pursue thousands of dollars in damages from the State of Illinois
“Equal protection under the law,” Thomas said after court. “Here today, we are being vindicated.”
Attorneys said they have over 30 similar cases waiting in the wings.
“What it means to me is that the system is finally taking seriously the claims of extremely serious police misconduct,” said attorney Joel Flaxman, who represents the latest exonerees. “I think it’s very important to have that redemption---you know that, ‘We hear you, you were correct the whole time.’”