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Gregory Warren

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On February 4, 2007, 28-year-old Gregory Warren walked out of the back door of a building in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois just as a group of Chicago police officers led by Sgt. Ronald Watts converged on the parking lot.

The officers herded several people, including Warren, from the parking lot into the lobby of the building and began searching them. Before Warren was searched, Watts told him he was going to jail. When Warren asked why, Watts replied, “You’ll see” and handcuffed him.

Watts, accompanied by Officer Alvin Jones, led Warren around a corner where they searched him and found no drugs. They took the cash from his wallet and told Warren his money would be used to buy Popeyes chicken for the officers.

Warren was taken to the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue where he was handcuffed to a bench. At one point, Watts opened a desk drawer and pulled out what appeared to be drugs and said, “These are yours.” Warren was charged with possession of 60 baggies of heroin.

As the paperwork for his arrest was being filled out, an officer arrived with bags of food from Popeyes, and Watts and the others ate in front of Warren. They offered Warren some of the chicken, but he refused.

On August 16, 2007, Warren pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of heroin. He was sentenced to probation for two years.

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 September 24, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit dismissed Warren’s conviction. Warren was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence, clearing the way for him to seek compensation from the state of Illinois. He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against 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: 12/10/2018
Last Updated: 3/31/2019
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:Probation
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No