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George Almond

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
On August 4, 2006, 28-year-old George Almond was visiting a friend at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois when Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers under his command raided the building looking for drugs.

Almond knew that Watts had a reputation for planting drugs on people, so he remained in the apartment until he thought the police had left. However, when he walked into the hallway, Watts was there.

Watts ordered him to stop and escorted Almond into a stairwell where he asked him for money. When Almond said he only had a few dollars, Watts arrested him for possession of narcotics.

At the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, Almond asked Officer Kallatt Mohammed what he was being charged with. Another officer then placed 20 baggies of heroin on the table and Watts said the drugs were Almond’s.

On October 5, 2006, Almond pled guilty in Cook County Circuit to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years in prison. He was released on February 2, 2008.

In 2012, Watts and 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., 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 November 2, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit dismissed Almond’s conviction. Almond subsequently was granted a certificate of innocence and was awarded $50,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois.

Almond filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago in February 2019.

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: 6/5/2020
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No