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Milton Delaney, Jr.

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On February 22, 2007, 28-year-old Milton Delaney, Jr. was sitting in his car near Madden Park behind the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. His mother had died and Delaney wanted to see the neighborhood where he grew up.

Delaney noticed several Chicago police cars converge at the public housing project. One of the officers, Sgt. Ronald Watts, walked over to Delaney’s car and asked what he was doing. When Delaney said he was just sitting in the car, Watts called several other officers over. Delaney and the car were searched, but nothing illegal was found.

Watts put Delaney in one of the police cars, and about 20 minutes later, Delaney was taken to the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue. When he asked what was going on, an officer told him he was being charged with possession of five ecstasy pills.

On July 7, 2008, Delaney pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to one year in prison. He subsequently was convicted in Will County of possession of narcotics and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in December 2013.

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 Delaney’s Cook County conviction. Delaney was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence, clearing the way for him to seek compensation from the state of Illinois.

By 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed. In 2019, Delaney filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages from the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/10/2018
Last Updated: 4/21/2019
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2008
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:1 year
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