CHICAGO (CBS) — Four more men framed by a corrupt former Chicago police officer had their cases dismissed on Wednesday, the latest in a string of exonerations in drug cases brought by former Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Attorneys for The Exoneration Project have said, for more than a decade, Watts and officers under his command planted evidence and fabricated charges, and even organized their own drug and gun trade.
At a hearing Wednesday morning, prosecutors agreed to drop charges against four men with convictions tied to Watts and his crew. On Monday, ten other men were cleared of drug charges linked to Watts.
“I’m just happy that justice finally got done, because it’s messed my life up growing up; hard to get jobs, and things like that,” said Jermaine Coleman, one of the men exonerated on Wednesday.
To date, a total of 63 people allegedly framed by Watts have had drug charges dropped. Many of them spent years in prison before they were cleared.
Watts pleaded guilty in 2013 to stealing from a homeless man who posed as a drug dealer as part of an undercover FBI sting. He admitted to routinely extorting money from drug dealers, and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.
Prosecutors have said Watts and the officers under his command routinely planted evidence and fabricated charges in order to further their own gun and drug trade.
Watts and his officers were involved in at least 500 convictions. Attorneys with the Exoneration Project said they expect many more cases ultimately will be tossed out.