20 convictions tied to former CPD Sgt. Watts vacated, setting single-day record in Cook County

The effort to right the wrongs of a former Chicago Police Sergeant took another jump forward Tuesday, as 19 more people connected to Ronald Watts had their convictions vacated.

"But make no mistake this is a sorrowful moment, knowing these individuals will never get that time back in their lives," said Kim Foxx, Cook County State's Attorney.

Watts and his crew were known for shaking down residents at the Ida B. Wells housing complex, where hundreds of Black men and women were wrongfully arrested and charged.

"Sergeant Watts and his corrupt crew savaged a community. They decimated Brown and Black men and women, a whole generation, and the city of Chicago let it happen," said Sean Starr from Exoneration Project, which has worked to clear many of the victims' names.

Foxx says more than 100 individuals have been cleared, with about 30 more exonerations expected in the coming weeks.

Foxx says this work is integral to public safety, because it can help restore faith in police and the court system.

"So we must work with the same feverish effort to stop violent crime in the present and right the wrongs of the past, so we can rebuild the trust in the community," said Foxx.


But the victims' attorneys say Watts wasn't the only dirty cop involved, and some officers still work at CPD.

"I do want to call on the city to finally take some action to hold these officers accountable. We've heard a lot about Watts who's off the force. Many of his team members are still there and are still drawing a salary," said attorney Joel Flaxman.

Attorneys for the victims say they’ve collectively served more than 200 years for crimes they didn’t commit. 

Watts was sentenced to 22 months.