Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Anthony Mays

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations
On May 13, 2006, 24-year-old Anthony Mays and his girlfriend were walking out of a building in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, when numerous police cars pulled up and officers jumped out. Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts forced Mays and his girlfriend to get on the ground with several other people.

Watts asked Mays if he could produce a gun for Watts, implying that he would let Mays go if he could bring an illegal weapon to Watts. When Mays said he could not, Watts and another officer, Alvin Jones, went into the building. After about 15 minutes, they came back out holding a bag of drugs and told Mays that the drugs were his.

Mays was arrested and charged with possession of 16 baggies of crack and seven baggies of heroin. The arrest was the third time Mays had been arrested by Watts or one of his fellow officers. Mays was arrested in 2002 after drugs were planted on him. He pled guilty in 2003 and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was released on parole, only to be arrested in 2004 after they again planted more drugs on him. He pled guilty in 2004 in that case and got two years in prison. He was out on parole on that conviction when he was arrested for the third time.

On June 19, 2006, Mays pled guilty a third time in Cook County Circuit Court. He was sentenced to two years and six months in prison. After receiving credit for 38 days in custody, Mays served half his sentence before being released in September 2007.

In 2012, Watts and a 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 (CIU) began investigating the cases and agreed that the convictions should be vacated and dismissed.

By 2019, more than 60 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On February 11, 2020, Mays’s 2006 conviction, along with convictions of 11 other people framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and dismissed following an investigation by the CIU. The dismissals brought the total of dismissed cases to nearly 80.

Mays ultimately was exonerated of his 2003 conviction in February 2022. He was exonerated of his 2004 conviction in April 2022.

In May 2020, Mays filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction. He also was granted a certificate of innocence and awarded $62,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 2/26/2020
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:2 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No