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Bryant Patrick

Other Cook County, Illinois exonerations with no crime
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On March 19, 2007, Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and fellow undercover narcotics officers arrested 25-year-old Bryant Patrick for possession of heroin at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois.

Watts reported that Bryant had 90 baggies of heroin in his possession. This was not the first time that Watts and members of his team arrested Patrick. On December 16, 2004, the officers arrested Patrick at the housing development on charges of possession of five baggies of heroin and 13 baggies of crack cocaine. On June 22, 2005, Bryant had pled guilty to that a charge of possession and was sentenced to probation.

Following the second arrest, a preliminary hearing was held on April 11, 2007 before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Fletcher. Officer Elsworth Smith testified that he spotted Patrick on a fourth floor stairwell holding a clear plastic bag. The bag was confiscated and inside were 90 smaller baggies of heroin, Smith testified.

Based on the testimony, Judge Fletcher found probable cause for the charge of possession of a controlled substance. On August 20, 2007, Patrick pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six years in prison.

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 (CIU) 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 CIU agreed that White’s conviction should be vacated and dismissed the charge.

In November 2017, following a re-investigation of numerous other cases involving Watts, the CIU dismissed 17 convictions involving 15 more defendants, including the conviction of Lionel White Jr., the son of Lionel White Sr.

By the fall of 2020, about 75 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed. During the reinvestigation of both of Bryant’s cases, Bryant gave a sworn declaration saying that prior to his 2004 arrest, Watts had harassed him for money and for information about where drugs and guns could be found. On two occasions, he shook Bryant down and took his money, saying Bryant had to pay “taxes.”

Bryant said he had been present when Ben Baker was arrested the first time and accompanied Baker when he filed a complaint against Watts with the Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Department. Not long after, Watts confronted Bryant about supporting Baker’s complaint and said that “every dog gets their day.”

Bryant said that after his second arrest, Watts took him in handcuffs into a hallway and said, “I have a proposition for you: Pay me $5,000 and you are out of the cuffs right now.”

Bryant said that when he told Watts he didn’t have any money, Watts “told me I was going to jail.” Bryant said he pled guilty on both occasions because his attorneys advised him that it was his word against the word of a police officer and that the officer would be believed—not him.

On December 15, 2020, following an investigation by the CIU, the convictions of Patrick and five others were vacated and dismissed.

Patrick was granted a certificate of innocence in February 2021 qualifying him for compensation from the state of Illinois.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/19/2021
Last Updated: 3/1/2021
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:6 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No