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David Walker

Summary of Watts Scandal
On October 16, 2007, 20-year-old David Walker left the apartment of his grandmother in the Ida B. Wells public housing development to go to the grocery store. On the way back, he stopped to speak to a friend, Larry Harley, who was driving by.

They were near 40th Street and Vincennes Avenue when police officers, including Chicago officer Alvin Jones, who was part of a crew under the command of Sgt. Ronald Watts, arrived in cars and on foot. “An officer put me in handcuffs and patted me down,” Walker later said. “He did not find anything illegal.”

Officers searched Harley’s car and then took both Harley and Walker to the police station. There, Walker said he saw officers counting cash. One of them said that they had found the cash in Harley’s car. “Do you know where it came from?” one asked.

“I truthfully told the officer that I did not know where the money came from, and that I was just walking back from the store to my grandmother’s house,” Walker said.

Walker then was charged with possession of heroin. Harley was charged with trespassing.

On November 28, 2007, Walker pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to boot camp. However, in 2008, he was resentenced to four years in prison for violating his probation after completing boot camp.

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. 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 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 granted a certificate of innocence in April 2022, and subsequently was awarded $87,000 in state compensation. He filed a federal lawsuit in September 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/2/2022
Last Updated: 5/19/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Sentence:4 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