Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Robert Lindsey

Other Cook County Exonerations with Official Misconduct
On October 15, 2009, 30-year-old Robert Lindsey and 29-year-old Germin Sims drove to 42nd Street and Prairie Avenue in Chicago to talk to a friend about repairing Lindsey’s car.

While they were talking, several Chicago police cars pulled up and officers pulled Lindsey and Sims out of their car. Both men were searched as was the car, but nothing illegal was found.

Nonetheless, one of the officers, Alvin Jones, who worked under the supervision of Sgt. Ronald Watts, ordered them taken to the police station at 51st and Wentworth Avenue. There, they were handcuffed to a bench.

Not long after, other officers escorted Willie Brownlee into a room nearby. About 20 minutes later, Sgt. Watts emerged from the room holding bags of narcotics.

Watts turned to Lindsey and Sims and said, “This is y’all’s.”

Lindsey and Sims were then charged with engaging in narcotics sales.

On July 12, 2010, Sims pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

On September 22, 2010, Lindsey pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Lindsey was released from prison on November 12, 2010. Sims was released on September 8, 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 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.

Beginning in December 2016, Tepfer and attorney Joel Flaxman filed motions for new trial on behalf of dozens of men and women who claimed they were 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,” their motions said.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit began investigating the cases and agreed that convictions should be vacated and dismissed.

By 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

In 2019, Flaxman filed petitions on behalf of Sims and Lindsey, seeking to vacate their convictions. During a re-investigation of their cases, Willie Brownlee provided a sworn affidavit saying that on the day Lindsey and Sims were arrested, he was arrested separately and was in fact carrying drugs.

“Watts told me he was going to put the drugs on Lindsey and Sims and let me go,” Brownlee said. “Watts did let me go. I was not charged with any crime.”

On February 13, 2019, Lindsey and Sims’s convictions were vacated and the charges were dismissed, bringing the total to more than 60 convictions erased in the Watts corruption scandal. They were both granted certificates of innocence, clearing the way for them to seek compensation from the state of Illinois. In July 2019, Lindsey was awarded $30,000 in state compensation.

In April 2019, Sims and Lindsey filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 2/22/2019
Last Updated: 9/10/2019
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:30
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No