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Darryl Boyd

Summary of Watts Scandal
On September 26, 2005, 18-year-old Darryl Boyd went to visit his cousin who lived in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. Boyd was standing in the lobby when Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and other officers entered the building.

“Watts asked me where the drugs were,” Boyd later recalled. “I told him I didn’t live there and I was just visiting my cousin. He then told me I needed to tell him something about what was going on down there. I reiterated that I didn’t live there and I didn’t know anything.”

Watts asked Boyd again for information. When Boyd once more said he didn’t know anything, “a bigger Black guy with a shaved head struck me repeatedly,” Boyd said. “Every time I said I didn’t know anything, they hit me. I tried to complain and tell them they were violating my rights. They just told me to shut up and hit me more.”

Boyd said Watts then left. “When he returned, he looked at me and said, ‘Bingo. Look what I got for you,’” Boyd said. “He showed me some black box. He then opened it and inside was what appeared to be a bag of drugs. I told him the drugs were not mine.”

Boyd was then arrested and charged with possession of 26 baggies of cocaine.

While Boyd was out on bond, he was working at a Fuddruckers restaurant bussing tables. On one occasion, Watts and the officer who beat Boyd were in the restaurant. “I said something to Watts and this officer about how I was working and, like I said that day at Ida B. Wells, I wasn’t involved in the drug trade,” Boyd said. “I told them they were wrong to arrest me.”

“They just laughed and the other officer said, ‘Stay your ass out of the projects then.’”

On November 30, 2005, Boyd pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to two years on probation. “The state offered a plea deal I couldn’t refuse,” Boyd said. “I took the deal, even though I was innocent because I was afraid I would be sentenced to a lengthy jail term.”

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, Boyd’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. Boyd was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022. In July 2022, the Illinois Court of Claims awarded Boyd $109,782 in state compensation. In August 2022, Boyd filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/9/2022
Last Updated: 12/11/2022
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No