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Sean Bush

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On March 29, 2007, 25-year-old Sean Bush arrived at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois to visit a friend named Orlando McIntosh. As Bush was climbing the stairs to McIntosh’s third floor apartment, there was a commotion below him of people running up the stairs.

Bush ran to McIntosh’s apartment. Just as McIntosh let him in and began to close the door, a hand came through the opening to try to block closure. Bush pushed the door shut on the hand and the man pulled it back. However, several men then began beating on the door. Fearful that the door would be broken down, McIntosh opened it.

Three Chicago police officers came in, including Sgt. Ronald Watts and officer Alvin Jones. As soon as Jones stepped inside, he punched Bush in the face several times.

Watts asked Bush why he ran. Bush said he heard the commotion and got scared.

Watts asked where the drugs were located. Bush and McIntosh said there were no drugs. Watts took McIntosh to the rear of the apartment and asked what McIntosh was going to give him. McIntosh said he did not want to be arrested.

However, both were arrested and taken to the police station. There, Watts demanded that McIntosh give him $3,000. McIntosh said he could give him $1,500 and Watts let him go. Later that day, McIntosh met Watts at a grocery store and handed him $1,500.

Bush was charged with possession of 363 baggies of heroin—a total of 190 grams. On November 29, 2007, he pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to a reduced charge of possession of 15 to 100 grams of heroin. He was sentenced to five 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. In January 2021, Jones was stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative leave.

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, Bush’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. Bush 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:2007
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:5 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No