Final batch of convictions tied to convicted former CPD Sgt. Ronald Watts tossed out

Cook County prosecutors on Friday agreed to vacate dozens more convictions connected to corrupt former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, in the final push to respond to petitions seeking to have charges tied to his police misconduct thrown out.

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office Kim Foxx’s office told a judge on Friday they would not oppose petitions in 44 convictions tied to Watts, and agreed to vacate the wrongful convictions and sentences in those cases.

Watts resigned from the force before pleading guilty in 2012 to stealing from a homeless man who posed as a drug dealer as part of an undercover FBI sting. He admitted to regularly extorting money from drug dealers and was sentenced to 22 months in prison. He has been accused of frequently planting evidence and fabricating charges.

Since taking office in December 2016, Foxx’s office has agreed to vacate a total of 212 convictions tied to Watts.

“The work to give relief to Watts victims is directly related to our public safety today,” Foxx said in a statement. “In order to restore trust in the criminal justice system, as prosecutors, we must approach every case with an eye toward the facts, the evidence, and the law. I’m grateful for the attorneys in this office who continue to seek justice, restore trust, and address the historic inequities of Cook County’s criminal justice system.”

Foxx’s office said the latest batch of convictions that were vacated cleared the last remaining petitions from Watts’ victims, though an investigation remains open into cases involving Watts.

Dozens of men and women have said Watts and his team terrorized them in or near the former Ida B. Wells housing project in Bronzeville between 2003 and 2008. Watts and his officers have been accused of planting drugs on suspects and falsifying police reports.

Prosecutors have said Watts and the officers under his command time and again planted evidence and fabricated charges in order to further their own gun and drug trade.

In some cases, Watts’ victims refused to pay him money or did something that angered him; in others, there appears to be no reason for why he targeted them.

“We applaud State’s Attorney Foxx and her office’s continued willingness to address these wrongful convictions. The 212 vacated convictions, cumulatively, represent a watershed period in Cook County and Chicago’s history – a collaborative effort by many different stakeholders to affirmatively begin a reconciliation process for a community of people so deeply wronged by years of Chicago police corruption,” Exoneration Project attorneys Joshua Tepfer and Sean Starr, who have represented many of Watts’ victims, said in a statement.

The Exoneration Project has said Watts and his officers were involved in at least 500 convictions.

In 2017, the city’s Office of Inspector General began investigating complaints of misconduct against officers under Watts’ command. The OIG later handed off the investigation to the Independent Police Review Authority. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability took over that probe when it replaced IPRA in September 2017.

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