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Marcus Gibbs

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
On January 7, 2007, 22-year-old Marcus Gibbs was shooting dice with several other men near the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago when a police car pulled up. Gibbs ran away because he recognized the officers as working under Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts.

On previous occasions, officers working under Watts had arrested him on false charges of trespassing and pocketed his cash. More recently, the officers had attempted to force Gibbs to “work” for them by selling drugs to individuals who would then be arrested. Just a few days earlier, Watts had challenged Gibbs to a fight and threatened to “get your ass.”

Although Gibbs ran into a building and up several flights of stairs, the officers caught him. When they took him to the police station, Gibbs thought he was going to be charged with trespassing again. Instead, the officers falsely claimed they found 14 packets of heroin that he had dropped during the chase.

On April 27, 2007, Gibbs pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of heroin. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and was released on July 6, 2008.

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 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 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 Law School, 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., 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.

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, including Gibbs and Lionel White Jr., the son of Lionel White, Sr.

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

In 2018, Gibbs filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago. He also was granted a certificate of innocence, which resulted in an award of $97,075 in compensation from the state of Illinois.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/28/2018
Last Updated: 3/30/2019
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No