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Teshama Beal

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On August 10, 2005, 22-year-old Teshama Beal came out of her bedroom and spotted someone wearing a University of Miami Hurricanes jacket walking out the door of her apartment in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois.

Minutes later, Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts entered the apartment without knocking. He was wearing a Miami Hurricanes jacket. He demanded money. Beal gave him $10 that she was carrying. Unsatisfied, Watts then began searching the apartment.

When he found $20 under a pillow, he told Beal she had lied to him. Beal protested that she did not know there was any money under the pillow. Watts then handcuffed her and took her to the lobby of the building. There, she was charged with possession of 42 baggies of crack cocaine. The police report said Watts saw Beal holding them in her hand when he came to the third floor.

On October 7, 2005, Beal pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of narcotics. She was sentenced to probation for two years.

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 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 (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, Beal’s conviction, along with convictions of 18 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and the case was dismissed following an investigation by the CIU. Beal was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/10/2022
Last Updated: 4/22/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Convicted:2005
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