The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office reported that it plans to accept the effort to overturn more than 50 convictions against dozens of people with cases related to the disgraced Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, enacting what could become the largest mass exoneration in Cook County history, an attorney for those people said Friday.
Eighty-three people currently have motions in court to overturn a total of 95 convictions related to Watts, who went to jail for his team reshuffles and mentoring residents of the former Ida B housing project Wells for almost a decade.
More than 100 convictions related to the Watts scandal have already been overturned in recent years, including 23 cases against 18 people on the same day in 2018, which was the largest mass exoneration on record in Cook County.
But a mass exemption with more than double those numbers could be imminent, according to attorney Joshua Tepfer, who represents those seeking the exemption. He said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office on Friday announced plans to formally agree to overturn more than 50 of the remaining 95 convictions at a status hearing next week. .
Tepfer said the state’s attorney’s office discussed its intent on those motions while in court on another case Friday, with a status hearing on the Watts cases scheduled for Tuesday, when the office should inform the court of its position. A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney said Friday the office was “unable to comment on ongoing litigation.”
NBC 5 is investigating the code of silence scandal that has plagued the Chicago Police Department as prosecutors dropped the convictions of five other men linked to the corrupt ex-sergeant on Thursday. Ronald Watts. Reporting by Phil Rogers of NBC 5 Investigates.
After Tuesday’s hearing, the judge will set dates to issue rulings on those motions, Tepfer said. It’s unclear exactly how many of the 83 people will be affected, only that the state’s attorney’s office said it would be more than 50 of the 95 convictions, Tepfer said.
“When this happened before, the judges accepted our request for redress, I think every time, so I expect the same,” Tepfer said, calling the decision “very important.”
“When you just take a huge step back, I mean, we’re talking numbers and, you know, vague things, but I mean 160 times now it’s been acknowledged that this group of incredibly corrupt cops have framed innocent, sent them to prison, you know, we’re talking hundreds of years of wrongful prison sentences,” he said. “It’s just mind-boggling and sad. And it’s great that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is willing to engage in this process to rectify these injustices.
The status hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Erica Reddick.