At least 10 men are expected to have their drug convictions vacated Monday in what would mark the fourth mass exoneration tied to notorious Chicago police sergeant Ronald Watts and his tainted tactical unit.
A hearing is set for Monday morning after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office moved to vacate and dismiss the charges against 14 men, who attorneys said were framed by Watts and his unit.
The Monday hearing will focus on 10 of those men, while a second hearing will take place Wednesday for the remaining four.
The latest wave of exonerations would bring the total number of people whose Watts-era convictions have been overturned to at least 63.
Still, Attorney Joshua Tepfer with the Exoneration Project, which has represented 47 of those individuals, said “there are dozens more with credible claims waiting to have their cases reviewed.”
A judge threw out the convictions of seven men in November and 18 men in September, with Foxx issuing an apology to those imprisoned by Watts, who critics say ran roughshod and virtually unsupervised for a decade on Chicago’s South Side.
Residents of the Ida B. Wells housing project had long argued they were being unjustly targeted.
“They put cases on people who didn’t cooperate with their corrupt schemes, took bribes, stole money and drugs from drug dealers, and really ruined the lives of dozens – maybe hundreds,” attorney Joel Flaxman said at a previous mass exoneration. “These officers knew who they were, would go after them, and would frame them over and over again.”
While even fellow officers pointed to corruption in the unit, only Watts and one of his officers, Kallatt Mohammed, were ever prosecuted for shaking down and framing residents of the housing project. Both went to prison.
“I never thought I’d be standing right here,” said Kenneth Hicks, who was among the latest round of exonerations. “Once they get you they got you.”