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Anthony Mays

Summary of Watts Scandal
On November 2, 2002, 20-year-old Anthony Mays was moving out of his mother’s apartment at the Ida B. Wells public housing development to live with his grandmother away from the development. He had decided to move because of continuing harassment by Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and members of his crew of officers.

“Watts consistently harassed me and shook me down for information, drugs and guns,” Mays said later. “On one occasion, Watts detained my nephew, Jermaine Mays, and told me that if I gave him a gun, he’d let my nephew go. I got him a gun and he let Jermaine go.”

On the day he was moving out, Mays and his sister rode down the elevator with boxes of Mays’s belongings. “As the elevator doors opened on the first floor, I saw that Watts and his officers had a bunch of people on the ground and were searching them,” Mays said. “My sister and I got back in the elevator and went back upstairs to my mother’s place to avoid contact with Watts.”

But as they were entering the apartment, officer Kallatt Mohammed, one of Watts’s crew, appeared in the hallway and ordered Mays to stop. “He approached me and grabbed me,” Mays said. “I didn’t have any drugs or anything illegal on me.” Mays, as well as his sister and mother, told Mohammed he was in the process of moving out, but Mohammed took Mays downstairs to the lobby.

Everyone who was on the ground was arrested. At the station, police said everyone was being charged with trespassing. Mays spoke up, saying that he lived at the building and had the ID to prove it. “Officer Al Jones looked at me and said I was getting charged with possession,” Mays said.

“I argued that I didn’t have drugs on me,” Mays said. “Jones pulled a bag of drugs out of his vest pocket and said, ‘These drugs are yours.’”

Mays said Watts and Mohammed took him into a hallway where they were alone. Mohammed said he could “work something out” if Mays gave him a gun. When Mays said he couldn’t do that, he was charged with possession of 29 baggies of heroin.

On February 6, 2003, Mays pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2012, Watts and 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 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 (CIU) 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 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, Mays’s conviction and the convictions of 13 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers were vacated, and the charges were dismissed. Mays was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022 and was subsequently granted $85,000 in state compensation. He also filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

Mays was framed on two other occasions by Watts and his crew. Mays was exonerated in December 2020 for a 2006 conviction after drugs were planted on him. He was exonerated in February 2022 for a 2003 false drug conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/13/2022
Last Updated: 12/6/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Sentence:3 years
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No