#WrongfulConvictions // Men who allege they were framed by crooked #Chicago cop get mass exoneration

Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. agreed to dismiss the charges after Cook County prosecutors confirmed at a brief hearing that they no longer had faith in the credibility of convictions brought against the men who were arrested on various drug charges from 2003 to 2008 by the rogue cop Ronald Watts and officers under his charge. “In good conscience we could not see these convictions stand,” said Mark Rotert, who heads the Cook County State’s Attorney’s conviction integrity unit. The mass exoneration is the latest mark on the Chicago Police Department, which has come under fire in the city’s black and Latino communities for unnecessarily using deadly force, police brutality and mistreatment of minorities. The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing report in the final days of the Obama administration about the Chicago Police Department finding that the city’s police force is beset by widespread racial bias, poor training and feckless oversight of officers accused of misconduct.

The 15 men together had 18 convictions. All of them were convicted in 2003 to 2008 for drug crimes. Some of the men are already free, but some are still serving time. The men allege that Watts and his team of officers planted the drugs on them, framed them and falsified police reports. "If you’re not gonna pay Watts, you were going to jail," said the newly exonerated Leonard Gibson who suffered multiple convictions at the hands of Sgt Watts when he refused to pay money. "I went to jail and did two years, 24 months for Watts. I came back home, he put another case on me." Joshua Tepfer of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago is representing the men whose petitions he filed in September and those which Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has agreed.

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