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Terrance Hogans

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On April 23, 2004, 20-year-old Terrance Hogans was playing dice in front of the Ida B. Wells public housing project in Chicago, Illinois.

When word came that Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts was on the way to the building at 575 East Browning Avenue, everyone stopped playing. They had seen Watts break up dice games in the past and confiscate money from everyone who was playing.

When Watts arrived, he walked up to Hogans. “He didn’t stop anyone else,” Hogans later said. “I found it strange that no one else got stopped.”

Watts patted Hogans down. “I didn’t have any drugs or anything illegal on me,” Hogans said. “He then took money from me and put it right into his pocket. I had won a significant amount of money playing dice that day and Watts took all of it. It was like someone had called Watts and told him that I won a bunch of money. He only targeted me and ignored everyone else.”

Watts wasn’t finished.

He and fellow officers took Hogans to the building at 559 East Browning Avenue. “We went up several floors,” Hogans said. “I didn’t know where he was taking me. Watts then knocked on an apartment door and an older man let him in.” Meanwhile, other officers held onto Hogans in the hallway.

“After about five minutes, Watts came out of the apartment with a handful of what appeared to be drugs,” Hogans said. “Watts then showed me the drugs and asked me what I had. I told him nothing. He told me the drugs were mine.”

Hogans’s odyssey was still not over.

Watts took him to another apartment. “He left me there with some of the officers for approximately half an hour,” Hogans said. “When he came back, he had more drugs with him. He showed them to me and asked if I had anything for him. I knew he wanted money or information, but I didn’t have any and I told him so. He then told me he was putting these drugs on me as well.”

Hogans was charged with possession of 139 baggies of heroin. On July 6, 2004, he pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to four 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.

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 February 2022, more than 100 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On February 8, 2022, following an investigation by the CIU, Hogans’s conviction and the convictions of 13 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers were vacated, and the charges were dismissed. Hogans was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/14/2022
Last Updated: 4/22/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:4 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No