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George Almond

Summary of the Watts scandal
In mid-April 2008, Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts stopped 30-year-old George Almond near the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. Watts said he needed Almond to give him some money by the end of the day because Watts was going to gamble that night at a casino.

Almond was familiar with Watts. On August 4, 2006, Almond had been visiting a friend at the housing development Watts and officers under his command raided the building looking for drugs. Almond knew that Watts had a reputation for planting drugs on people, so he remained in the apartment until he thought the police had left. However, when he walked into the hallway, Watts was there.

Watts ordered Almond to stop and escorted him into a stairwell, where he asked him for money. When Almond said he only had a few dollars, Watts arrested him for possession of narcotics.

At the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue, Almond asked Officer Kallatt Mohammed what he was being charged with. Another officer then placed 20 baggies of heroin on the table and Watts said the drugs were Almond’s.

On October 5, 2006, Almond pled guilty in Cook County Circuit to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to two years in prison. He was released on February 2, 2008.

On April 23, 2008, just a few days after Watts said he needed money for gambling, Watts caught up to Almond again. Almond was talking to a girl near the Ida B. Wells housing development when Watts and other officers approached and put him in handcuffs.

Almond was taken to the police station and charged with possession of cocaine. The police report said that the officers approached Almond and while patting him down, discovered 55 baggies of cocaine in his pants pocket.

On May 29, 2008, Almond pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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 trials 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 the convictions should be vacated and dismissed. By the end of 2020, more than 80 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On November 4, 2021, Almond’s conviction, along with convictions of four others framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and dismissed following an investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit.

In January 2022, Almond was granted a certificate of innocence. In August 2022, the Illinois Court of Claims awarded him $85,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/6/2021
Last Updated: 12/11/2022
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:3 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