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Angelo Shenault, Sr.

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On October 29, 2004, Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and several officers under his command entered the apartment of 41-year-old Angelo Shenault Sr. in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. They demanded that he tell them the names of people dealing drugs and the locations of drugs.

Shenault had rebuffed similar demands by Watts in the past and did so again. The officers then began to search the apartment and one officer said he found heroin in Shenault’s jacket. Shenault denied he had any drugs, but he was charged with possession of narcotics.

On December 8, 2004, Shenault pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was released on parole October 27, 2005.

Thirteen months later, on November 26, 2006, the same officers again arrested Shenault on charges of possession of heroin after he again refused their demands to reveal the names of people dealing drugs in the housing complex. On March 28, 2007, Shenault pled guilty to possession of heroin and was sentenced to one year and three months in prison. He was released on July 11, 2007.

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 February 13, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit dismissed Shenault’s convictions. Shenault was subsequently granted certificates of innocence for both convictions, resulting in an award of $97,075 in compensation from the state of Illinois. Shenault also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago.

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
Last Updated: 3/30/2019
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:4 years and 3 months
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:41
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No