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William Carter

Other Cook County Exonerations with Official Misconduct
Corrupt Chicago police narcotics officers framed William Carter three separate times from 2004 to 2006 by planting drugs on him and falsely accusing him of either possessing or selling heroin and cocaine.

The third time resulted in a nine-year prison term for Carter, who served nearly five years before his release in 2010.

In July 2017, Carter, 31, was exonerated following a re-investigation of his case by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The investigation established what Carter had asserted for more than a decade. The officers who framed him were part of a Chicago police narcotics unit that stole money from people—some of them drug dealers—and planted drugs on others.

On March 3, 2004, Carter was just 18 when he first encountered members of a Chicago police narcotics unit headed by Sgt. Ronald Watts. Police officers Kallat Mohammed, Alvin Jones, and Kenneth Young, Jr. arrested Carter at the public housing development on East Browning Avenue where Carter lived. Carter was charged with possession of heroin.

Released on bond, Carter filed a formal complaint with the Chicago Police Department. He alleged that Young slammed him into a wall and kicked him in the back. The police, Carter asserted, planted heroin on him, and then falsely accused him of possessing drugs.

On June 18, 2004, while the police department’s Office of Professional Standards was investigating Carter’s allegations (and after the officers became aware of the misconduct complaint), Carter was arrested again near the housing development. This time, Jones and other officers arrested him on a charge of possession of cocaine. Undeterred, Carter filed another complaint against the officers, alleging that Jones punched him in the jaw and planted the drugs.

In January 2005, the department dismissed Carter’s misconduct complaints as “not sustained.” In August 2005, Carter pled guilty to both charges and was sentenced to probation. His probation was later revoked after he was charged with domestic violence. As a result, he was sent to a Cook County Jail boot camp for several weeks.

On May 19, 2006, members of Watts’s narcotics unit arrested Carter again. At the time, Carter, 20, left the apartment where he lived with his aunt and her children to order some food. When he returned, Officer Jones was in the apartment and had been searching unsuccessfully for drugs for several minutes.

When Carter entered the apartment, Jones declared, “You’re just the [obscenity] I’m looking for.” Jones handcuffed Carter and marched him into the hallway where Officer Mohammed joined them. All three walked down the stairs to the main floor lobby, and the officers placed Carter on the bottom steps.

A few minutes later, Sandra Berry, a resident of the building, walked into the lobby. She heard an officer say, “You’ve got to get in line.” Berry turned and walked back out, but an officer followed and arrested her.

On June 7, 2006, Jones testified at a preliminary hearing in Cook County Circuit Court that he saw Berry give Carter $20, and that Carter then gave Berry a small plastic bag containing cocaine. Jones testified that after he and his partners arrested Berry and Carter, they confiscated the baggie from Berry, as well as $115 and 16 more bags of cocaine from Carter.

Judge Adam Bourgeois ordered Carter held pending trial. He found there was insufficient evidence against Berry, and the charge against her was dismissed.

In January 2007, Carter went to trial before a jury in Cook County Circuit Court. Jones testified that he saw Carter sell the packet of drugs to Berry. Three witnesses, including Berry, testified on behalf of Carter. Carter’s cousin, Valencia Cline, testified that Jones came into the apartment looking for drugs. When Carter returned to the apartment, he was immediately handcuffed and taken outside.

Damica Nickerson testified that Carter came to her 6th floor apartment, where she sold food to building residents. He ordered a beef sandwich and left, saying he would be right back. Nickerson said that when he didn’t come back, she went down to the 5th floor and saw Carter handcuffed and sitting in the hallway outside his apartment.

Sandra Berry testified that Jones falsely accused her of purchasing cocaine from Carter. She told the jury that when she entered the building lobby, Carter was handcuffed and sitting on the stairs. She said she exited the lobby and was arrested.

On February 1, 2007, the jury convicted Carter of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He was sentenced to nine years in prison. He was released on parole on January 21, 2010.

In 2012, Sgt. Ronald Watts, who headed the narcotics unit, 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 secretly 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 badge and 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 protection payments from the drug dealers who terrorized the community that he [Watts] had sworn to protect.

”In 2016, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office vacated the convictions of Ben Baker and his wife, Clarissa Glenn, as well as the conviction of Lionel White Sr.. All three had been arrested and falsely accused of drug possession by officers working for Watts.

In April 2017, attorney Joel Flaxman filed a petition to vacate Carter’s 2007 conviction based on the corrupt activities of Watts and the officers in his unit. On July 10, 2017, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s conviction integrity unit filed a motion to vacate and dismiss all three of Carter’s drug convictions. Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin granted the motion.

Carter was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence and was awarded $97,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois. He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Also in July 2017, Bruce Powell, who had been sentenced to two years in prison after being falsely accused by members of Watts’s unit, was exonerated.

In November 2017, following a re-investigation of numerous other cases involving Watts, the Cook County State's Attorney's conviction integrity unit dismissed 17 convictions involving 15 more defendants. Those defendants included Lionel White Jr.., the son of Lionel White, Sr. Joshua Tepfer, an attorney at the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School who represented Baker, his wife and the others who were exonerated, estimated that at Watts and members of his unit were responsible for at least 500 more convictions.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/17/2017
Last Updated: 3/30/2019
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:9 years
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No