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Corey Davis

Summary of Watts Scandal
On January 8, 2005, 17-year-old Corey Davis went to the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois to visit a friend. As he was walking through the lobby of one of the buildings, he saw Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and several of his officers standing by several men who were in handcuffs.

Watts called Davis over and handcuffed him. He then pulled Davis aside and asked who was dealing drugs. Davis said he didn’t know anything.

About 10 minutes later, Watts ordered everyone except Davis released, but only if they threw down any drugs they were carrying. When the men were gone, there were two plastic bags on the floor.

“I saw someone throw down a bag of weed,” Davis said later. “And someone else threw down a bag of rocks.”

Davis was charged with possession of cocaine. On February 15, 2005, Davis pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation. “I pleaded guilty to a charge of drug possession even though I was innocent,” Davis later said. “I decided to plead guilty because I was offered probation. It was my first case, and I wanted to do whatever I could to go home.”

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 (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, following an investigation by the CIU, Davis’s conviction, along with the convictions of 18 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and the charge was dismissed. Davis was granted a certificate of innocence in April 2022 and subsequently awarded $85,000 in compensation, of which $2,000 was for Flaxman. In 2022, Davis filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/15/2022
Last Updated: 12/6/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2005
Age at the date of reported crime:17
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No