Four more Chicago men are free after their convictions linked to ex-police officer Sgt. Ronald Watts, were wiped out by a Cook County judge.
Jermaine Coleman, Jabal Stokes, Robert Lindsey and Germain Sims were exonerated at a hearing on Wednesday. The Chicago Sun-Times reports cases tied to arrests by officers serving under Watts were eligible for dismissal due to planted evidence and framing.
“I’m just glad to see justice finally got done, because [the conviction] messed my life up,” Coleman told reporters Wednesday.
Coleman was sentenced to four years for drug possession. He was arrested, along with Stokes and 10 others in the Ida B. Wells housing projects in 2006.
“I’m thinking we got a trespass, but when we got to the holding cells, we got heroin cases," he said. "Years of my life went down the drain for nothing, because I was outside a project.”
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According to WGN-TV, Watts and his officers destroyed countless lives by taking bribes, stealing from drug dealers and planting evidence. Watts was indicted in 2012 for those offenses and fabricating charges for more than a decade. One of his fellow officers, Kallatt Mohammed, was also charged for targeting residents of the Wells housing project.
Earlier this week, 10 men were exonerated for drug convictions attached to Watts' corruption. Zarice Johnson, one of the men freed Monday, said he was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was arrested.
"Sergeant Watts made life hard for us as young children growing up," Johnson told media. "He put drugs on me for no reason for hanging around outside with my friends. What could you do about it?"
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx and attorneys for the Exoneration Project worked diligently to free roughly 63 people affected by Watts' crimes.
BREAKING: Attorneys for victims of corrupt ex-#Chicago
#Police Sgt. Ronald Watts expect 17 more convictions linked to his unit to be thrown out this week. That'd bring Watts-tied vacated convictions to 82. All were felonies, all but one on drug charges. How many exonerees? 63.
— Chip Mitchell (@ChipMitchell1) February 11, 2019
In the past year, there have been four mass exonerations related to Watts in less than a year, and it appears there may be more. Foxx said there are more cases under review, and journalist Chip Mitchell believes there are 82 convictions tied to Watts.
The state's attorney's office will no longer use testimony from officers involved with Watts moving forward.
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