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Angelo Shenault, Jr.

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
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On April 4, 2006, 23-year-old Christopher Scott and 18-year-old Angelo Shenault Jr. were standing near the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois when Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers under his command approached the building.

Watts and his men had arrested Scott in the past for trespassing. On one occasion when they tried to charge him with possession of narcotics, he escaped by running away.

Scott was familiar with a scheme that Watts and his officers operated in which they searched people and apartments for drugs and then had cooperating residents solicit customers for them. The officers, dressed in civilian clothes, would sell the drugs from a second floor apartment to unwitting customers, who would then be arrested when they walked downstairs.

So when Scott and Shenault heard they were coming, they ran. However, the officers caught them and charged them with selling drugs. Two others stopped by the officers later signed sworn affidavits saying that neither Scott nor Shenault were selling or possessed drugs.

On May 24, 2006, Scott, unable to make bond, pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

On July 19, 2006, Shenault pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to four years in prison and was released on parole on February 8, 2007.

About a year later, on March 3, 2008, the officers arrested Shenault again at the public housing development, saying they confiscated 14 baggies of heroin and five baggies of cocaine. Shenault contended that he was in the apartment of a friend talking about getting his car fixed when police came in. He said a man he didn’t know who was in the apartment tried to swallow some drugs and was arrested. Shenault said he was arrested as well, even though he didn’t have any drugs.

On April 22, 2008, Shenault pled guilty to possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. He was released on parole on December 2, 2008.

On July 16, 2009, while Shenault was walking on 43rd Street near the public housing development, Watts and other officers pulled up and arrested him a third time. Shenault said the officers demanded that he reveal the location of some drugs. When Shenault said he didn’t know, the officers arrested him and said that they saw Shenault throw 22 baggies of heroin into nearby bushes.

Shenault pled guilty on January 4, 2010 to a charge of possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was released on parole on January 11, 2011.

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.

Flaxman also sought dismissal of Shenault’s convictions. On February 13, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's conviction integrity unit dismissed Shenault’s 2006 conviction. On April 16, 2018, the prosecution dismissed Shenault’s 2008 and 2010 convictions.

Shenault was subsequently granted certificates of innocence for all three convictions, resulting in an award of $97,075 in compensation from the state of Illinois. He 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: 12/3/2018
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:4 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No