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Crystal Allen

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On April 17, 2007, 22-year-old Crystal Allen was visiting a friend at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. She was in the bathroom when she heard pounding on the apartment front door.

As Allen emerged from the bathroom, her friend, Damicka Henderson, opened the door and two Chicago Police officers—Sgt. Ronald Watts and Kallatt Mohammed—pushed their way in.

Watts asked Allen “who was working” a question meant to find out who was selling drugs. “I told him that I didn’t know; that we were just hanging out,” Allen later said. She said she had been shopping for clothes. Watts searched her and did not find anything illegal.

“Watts told me to stop playing and tell him who was working,” Allen said. “I told him to look in my shopping bag to see the receipts for the clothes I just bought to prove I was telling the truth. He told me to put my hands behind my back and that I was under arrest.”

Allen was charged with possession of 17 baggies of cocaine.

She was arrested a second time on July 18, 2007. Allen was standing outside a building in the public housing development when she was approached by Chicago Kallatt Mohammed and officer Alvin Jones.

Jones told Allen to go into the building lobby. There, the officers grabbed several more people and lined them against a wall. Mohammed went down the line and asked each person, “Who wants to work?”

Allen later said, “Most people said ‘yes,’ but I said, ‘No.’ I didn’t know what Mohammed was doing and I thought he was asking who was selling drugs.” Those who said yes were released. Those who said no were arrested.

Allen was charged with possession of 45 baggies of heroin.

On September 7, 2007, she pled guilty to possession of narcotics in both cases. She was sentenced to two years on probation.

“I was pregnant and the state offered a plea deal that I couldn’t refuse,” she said later. “I took the deal, even though I was innocent because I was afraid I would be sentenced to a lengthy jail term and was worried about my little daughter and my unborn baby.”

In 2012, Watts and 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.

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 CIU began investigating the cases and agreed that the convictions should be vacated and dismissed. By the end of 2021, more than 90 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On February 1, 2022, Allen’s conviction, along with convictions of 18 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and dismissed following a CIU investigation. Allen was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022.

On April 22, 2022, Allen's second conviction was vacated and dismissed. By that time, more than 200 convictions linked to the corrupt officers had been dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/10/2022
Last Updated: 4/27/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:Probation
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Female
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No