CHICAGO (CBS/STMW) — Cook County prosecutors have vacated the drug charges that sent a man to prison for 14 years after a Chicago police officer who testified against him at trial was later convicted of corruption.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Ben Baker, 43, who was convicted in the case nearly a decade ago, based in part on the testimony of crooked Chicago cop Ronald Watts.
Baker’s defense claimed at trial that Watts had threatened him before and planted drugs on him at the time of his arrest, but the judge in case did not find that credible due to a lack of corroboration, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
Watts was arrested by the feds in early 2012 for ripping off thousands of dollars from a man he believed to be a drug courier but was in fact an FBI informant working a sting operation.
Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2013.
Baker was released Thursday.
“As soon as this case was brought to our attention my Conviction Integrity Unit began an immediate review of this case,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a news release. “Based upon our review and the fact that this now convicted officer provided key testimony during the trial of Mr. Baker, this conviction can no longer stand.”
Alvarez’s decision comes as she faces growing criticism for not being tough enough on bad cops and as Cook County Democrats endorsed one of her rivals, Kim Foxx, in the state’s attorney’s primary race.
Baker’s sister, Gale Anderson, tells WBBM she is overwhelmed that her brother will finally get to come home after 10 years behind bars.
“He lost his family. His children are gone. His wife is gone. He’s got grandkids he don’t know,” she says.