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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 December 16, 2004, Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and fellow police officers arrested 23-year-old Bryant Patrick at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois on charges of possession of five baggies of heroin and 13 baggies of crack cocaine.

On June 22, 2005, Patrick pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to a charge of possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

On March 19, 2007, Watts and other officers arrested Patrick again at the housing development, this time for possession of heroin.

Watts reported that Patrick had 90 baggies of heroin in his possession.

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 Patrick’s cases, Patrick 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 Patrick down and took his money, saying Patrick had to pay “taxes.”

Patrick 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 Patrick about supporting Baker’s complaint and said that “every dog gets their day.”

Patrick 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.”

Patrick said that when he told Watts he didn’t have any money, Watts “told me I was going to jail.” Patrick 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, Patrick’s 2007 conviction and the convictions of five others were vacated and dismissed.

On February 19, 2021, Patrick’s 2005 conviction was vacated and the charges dismissed. The convictions of eight other men who had been framed by Watts and his officers also were vacated and dismissed.

Patrick was granted a certificate of innocence for the 2007 conviction in February 2021 qualifying him for compensation from the state of Illinois. He also filed a petition seeking a certificate of innocence for the 2005 conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/2/2021
Last Updated: 3/2/2021
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2021
Sentence:Probation
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No