Criminal Justice

Judge vacates convictions of 15 men who said cop had framed them; additional review is underway

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A judge in Chicago on Thursday vacated the convictions of 15 men who said they had been framed by corrupt Chicago police officers.

Cook County, Illinois, Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. vacated 18 convictions against the 15 men at the request of prosecutors, report the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The men had claimed that former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and members of his team had framed them in drug cases between 2003 and 2008. Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2013 for stealing money from a drug courier in a government sting.

Defendants had claimed Watts would plant drugs on them and file false reports if they refused to pay “protection” money.

Lawyer Joshua Tepfer of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School represented the 15 men. He said the vacated convictions were the first “mass exoneration” in the history of Cook County.

Five other defendants have also had their convictions tossed because of a link to Watts. And there could be more.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office continues to review cases related to the former officer.

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