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212 Blacks Falsely Convicted By Dirty Cops In Chicago Have Been Exonerated & Their Records Wiped Clean

212 Blacks Falsely Convicted By Dirty Cops In Chicago Have Been Exonerated & Their Records Wiped Clean

A dirty Chicago cop known to roam the city’s Southside set up over 200 Black and brown folks, and now their records are being erased.

“This is the largest mass exoneration in Chicago history,” said Tyrone Fenton, one of the hundreds of people who have been touched. He said, “I was kind of afraid.”

Fenton, 48, is one of 43 people who had their drug convictions overturned on April 22 as a result of former Chicago police sergeant Ronald Watts, a well-known cop with a reputation for threatening, harassing, and framing people on the city’s predominately Black and brown southside.

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“He used to say a lot of stuff like, you know, I’m going down, and if I go down, I’m going to take a lot of people down with me,” Fenton said of Watts.

Fenton was a victim of Watts’ unethical policing in January 2006, when he and two other people were leaving a funeral when Watts and his gang of cops approached them to search them for drugs.

“Watts continued asking us where the drugs are, where the firearms are,” Fenton explained.

Watts then detained the men, took them to the police station, and delivered on his terrible reputation of placing drugs on unsuspecting people, primarily men, according to Fenton’s affidavit.

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“The next thing you know, they walk out of the back room with three big Ziploc bags of heroine, which I now know was heroine, and they’d place it on the table, and I’d ask, ‘What’s this for?’ and they’d say nothing.” “I kept saying, ‘What’s this,’ and they’d respond, ‘This is y’all, and you’re about to go to jail for it,’” Fenton said of his experience.

Fenton served two years in an Illinois state jail after being charged with heroin possession. “I felt less than human, less than a man,” Fenton said, “for him to come do it to me and to watch him doing it to others as well.”

Fortunately for Fenton, his narcotics charges were overturned as a result of Watts’ shady dealings finally coming to light after an inquiry led to a federal prosecution in 2012, in which Watts and fellow officer Kallatt Mohammed pled guilty to taking money from an FBI informant.

According to the Exoneration Project, Mohammed was sentenced to a year and a half in prison and Watts was sentenced to two years in prison for their offenses in 2013.

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“The combined time spent behind bars for the spurious drug crimes Watts placed on innocent Black and brown Chicago residents comes up to almost 400 years,” Fenton said of the total time spent behind bars. He went on to add of Watts’ relatively short prison sentence, “You’ve gotten 22 months, and now you’re back out living your life.”

Since taking office in 2006, Chicago State Attorney Kim Foxx says she’s worked with petitioners to get 212 convictions involving Watts vacated due to his wrongdoing.

“The inquiry into cases involving Watts and other patterns of wrongdoing continues,” she said in a statement, acknowledging that all applications to dismiss cases due to Watts have been answered.

As a result, Fenton and defense attorney Josh Tepfer wonder why other cops involved in Watts’ misconduct haven’t been punished.

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“When we had the first round of mass exonerations, a lot of those policemen were put on desk duty; I’m not sure what desk duty entails,” Tepfer said.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in Chicago was contacted for comment on Watts and to learn the status of other officers who worked alongside Watts, but our request was not replied at the time of publication. Tepfer claims that his agency also attempted to obtain a copy of COPA’s report on the other policemen.

“We know of two reports that have been released.” The first was published in March 2021, and the second in July 2021, but no one has seen them because they have not been made public. We believe this is illegal, and we’ve filed a lawsuit to have them made public. We were assured that part of it would be released just yesterday. COPA and the city of Chicago’s lack of transparency did not, according to Tepfer.

Although at least one corrupt cop was held accountable, Fenton believes that more work is needed to cleanse Chicago’s police force of rogue cops.

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“Two hundred and twelve Black people have been falsely accused, and no one cares,” Tepfer added. “Our black mayor is unconcerned. These are disposable individuals. They’ve spent almost $9.2 million defending these police to this far.”

“We know there are other corrupt cops out there getting away with things, possibly doing the same thing he was doing and maybe still on the force,” Fenton said of the work that remains to be done by Chicago’s cops to heal the harm done to Black and brown communities.

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