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Landon Allen

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On January 29, 2004, 29-year-old Landon Allen went to visit a friend at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. As he walked through a parking lot toward the back door, a Chicago police officer dressed in plainclothes grabbed him and pushed him against a wall.

The officer searched him, but found nothing.

Allen then noticed that several men had been lined up and handcuffed. Other officers dressed in plainclothes were searching them. He also heard one of the men speak into a radio and say, “Sgt. Watts.”

Shortly thereafter, Sgt. Ronald Watts arrived. One of the officers approached Watts and then came to Allen, who asked what he was being charged with. The officer then stuck his hand into Allen’s pants pocket a second time. When he pulled out his hand, he was holding a plastic bag containing 10 baggies of heroin.

The officer then took Allen’s money and charged him with possession of heroin.

Allen did not say anything because he knew he was being framed.

On July 8, 2004, Allen pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

In 2012, Watts and fellow officer Kallatt Mohammed were caught on tape stealing money from a man they believed was a drug courier, but who was in fact working as a confidential FBI informant. In 2013, Watts and Mohammed pled guilty in U.S. District Court to taking money from the informant. Mohammed was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

Federal prosecutors said Watts “used his position as a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department to shield his own criminal activity from law enforcement scrutiny. He recruited another CPD officer into his crimes, stealing drug money and extorting protections from the drug dealers who terrorized the community that he (Watts) had sworn to protect.”

In 2006, Ben Baker was convicted twice—once alone and a second time with his wife, Clarissa Glenn, on charges of narcotics possession based on false testimony from Watts. In 2015, Joshua Tepfer, an attorney at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago School of Law, filed a petition to vacate Baker’s first conviction, citing the corruption of Watts and his unit. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit agreed in January 2016 that Baker’s first conviction should be vacated, and the petition was granted. Later in 2016, a petition filed on behalf of Baker and Glenn also was granted.

In December 2016, Tepfer and attorney Joel Flaxman filed a motion for a new trial on behalf of Lionel White Sr., another defendant who claimed he had been falsely convicted based on the corruption of Watts and his team. “The full known scope of the corrupt, more-than-decade-long criminal enterprise of Sergeant Watts…shows that Sergeant Watts led a tactical team of Chicago police officers that engaged in systematic extortion, bribery, and other related crimes…from as far back as the late 1990s through 2012,” the motion said.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit agreed that White’s conviction should be vacated and dismissed the charge.

On September 24, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit dismissed Allen’s conviction. Allen was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence, clearing the way for him to seek compensation from the state of Illinois.

By 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/9/2018
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No