Group of 88 seek exonerations after being allegedly framed by corrupt Chicago officers
This second group includes some who officers arrested alongside those who have already had their convictions overturned.
Nearly 90 people will petition an Illinois judge on Tuesday to dismiss their criminal convictions, which came after they were arrested by former Chicago Police officer Sgt. Ronald Watts, who — along with his ex-partner, Kallatt Mohammed — was jailed in 2013 for extortion.
After the former cops’ convictions, dozens of claimants came forward saying Watts and Mohammed had planted drugs on them.
Eighty-seven convictions have already been overturned by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office since the officers were convicted. This second group of people has similar claims of wrongful arrest, including some who were arrested alongside those who have already had their convictions overturned.
They say they have not heard back from Cook County prosecutors after submitting their claims years ago. They are now going directly to a judge.
“It’s B.S. and totally unfair and shows what type of system we have,” Rasaan Shannon told NBC News. “And it’s why we’re doing what we can to fight against the system.”
Shannon was sentenced to a boot camp for young offenders for four months as a 17-year-old high school senior for possessing heroin back in 2004. He insisted officers had planted the drugs on him, but he didn’t think he would be believed.
Even at 34, the memory of the arrest and conviction brought Shannon to tears.
“There was nothing I could possibly do,” he said, noting that the incident derailed his senior year of high school and led him into gang life. “It was all in the hands of this officer.”
Watts and Mohammed worked in the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project on Chicago’s South Side in the early 2000s. In 2012, Mohammed admitted he and Watts extorted payoffs from drug dealers, and the next year, Watts was convicted of taking thousands of dollars from a federal informant.
Watts, who is Black, was sentenced to 22 months in prison and has since been released.
Wells Homes residents arrested from 2002 to 2009 have filed claims against both officers for planting drugs on them, and all of the claimants are Black.
Derrick Lewis, who was arrested alongside Shannon in 2004, has already had his two convictions related to the case overturned, and he is hopeful for his friend.
“What they did to us was wrong, and they can’t make it right other than to make sure that it can’t be done to someone else,” Lewis, 42, said. “They can’t give us that time back.”