Cook County prosecutors in Chicago recently dropped all charges against 15 men who allegedly were framed by corrupt former Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his crew.
Watts and an officer under his command were sent to federal prison in 2013 for stealing money from a drug courier who’d been working as an FBI informant.
Ten of the convicted men were recently in court as Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., presiding judge of the criminal division, threw out the convictions en masse – believed to be the first mass exoneration in county history.
And there could be more ahead, according to The Chicago Tribune. Joshua Tepfer, the lead attorney for the 15 men, said Watts led a crew of cops – many still on the force – who made some 1,000 arrests. Authorities still must deal with more than 400 convictions tainted by Watts and his men, he said.
“It needs to be investigated and vetted about how many of those are appropriate to overturn,” Tepfer recently told reporters at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. “We are very much in the process of doing that.”
It marked the third consecutive day that prosecutors dropped charges at the county’s main criminal courthouse because of alleged police misconduct. Jose Maysonet, 49, walked free after 27 years in custody for a double murder when a sergeant and four detectives – all retired – indicated they would assert their Fifth Amendment right and refuse to answer questions about the alleged confessions they obtained.
Arthur Brown, 66, was also released after county prosecutors reversed course and dropped murder charges against him, saying “significant evidentiary issues” raised “deep concerns” about the fairness of his conviction. Brown had been in custody 29 years for a double murder.