Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Gregory Young

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On March 2, 2003, 38-year-old Gregory Young and his wife and their three children were in their apartment in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois when they heard loud pounding on the door. They recognized the voice of Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts yelling to open the door as he kicked it repeatedly.

“I finally went and opened the door because I was scared he was going to kick it in,” Young said later. Watts and several other officers, including Alvin Jones, “put us on the couch. At some point, Al punched my son, Corey, and when I complained, Al punched me.”

“Watts kept asking me to give him somebody, which I knew meant he wanted information about someone who was selling drugs in the building,” Young said. “I didn’t know any information and told him that.”

“Eventually, Watts came from the back of the apartment with drugs in his hand,” Young said. “I knew they hadn’t come from our apartment and I protested and said that.”

Watts arrested Young and his son, Greg. “At the station, Watts told me that he was going to put the drugs on both of us,” Young said. “I told him I would just take responsibility for all of it and say it as mine if he let my son go. And he did let my son go.”

Young was charged with possession of 25 baggies of heroin. On April 21, 2003, 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 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. In 2021, Jones was placed on administrative leave and his police powers were suspended.

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.

On February 16, 2022, following an investigation by the CIU, Young’s conviction, along with the convictions of 14 others framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and the charge was dismissed. These dismissals raised the total of convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit to nearly 150. Young was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 3/8/2022
Last Updated: 4/22/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Convicted:2003
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:4 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No