The Cook County State’s Attorney in Illinois has dropped all charges against 15 men who combined had 18 convictions. All of them were convicted in 2003 to 2008 for drug crimes that they say that local police framed them for.
The men, all African-American, allege that former police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his team of officers planted the drugs on them, and then falsified police reports.
Leonard Gibson, one of the men exonerated, told reporters that Watts threatened them if they didn’t pay him a so-called “protection tax”. Gibson comments, “If you’re not gonna pay Watts, you were going to jail.” And Gibson did serve 2 years in jail. He says when he was released from prison, Watts tried to put another case on him.
Joshua Tepfer of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago says that the officers targeted low income Black men who lived in South Side housing projects. He even said that others in command at the Chicago Police Department knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it.
“This corruption was covered up by the highest levels of the Chicago Police Department,” Tepfer said. “It was swept under the rug.”
Meanwhile, the 15 men and Tepfer all feel that justice has not been fully served. Sgt. Watts and another officer were convicted, served less than 3 years, and are now free. Even worse, as many as seven others officers were never been charged and are still working on the force.