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Bruce Walker

Summary of Watts Scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
On March 11, 2004, 21-year-old Bruce Walker and his friend Isaiah Hudson took a taxi to visit a female friend at the Ida B. Wells public housing project in Chicago, Illinois. As they got out of the taxi, Chicago police officers, including Sgt. Ronald Watts, drove up.

“The officers ordered us to come to the car,” Walker later said. “Isaiah ran, and I walked toward the car.”

“Two of the officers ran after Isaiah,” Walker recalled. “They came back a few minutes later with a bag of drugs that they said Isaiah had dropped. Watts told me words to the effect of, ‘It’s your lucky day. This is yours.’ I understood him to mean that he was going to arrest me based on a false story that the drugs were mine.”

The report of the arrest said that as the officers approached, they saw Walker standing in a vacant building and spit out bags of drugs.

Although the report was false, on May 19, 2004, Walker pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Cook to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to probation for two years.

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.

On February 16, 2022, following an investigation by the CIU, Walker’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. Walker was awarded a certificate of innocence in April 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/1/2022
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:Probation
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No