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Darryl Hall

Summary of Watts Scandal
On February 19, 2006, 23-year-old Darryl Hall visited a friend at 575 East Browning Avenue in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. As he was walking through the lobby on his way out of the building, he saw that Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and other officers had lined up several men against the wall.

“Watts stopped and searched me,” Hall later said. “I didn’t have any drugs or anything illegal on me. The officers handcuffed me.”

Watts then took Hall around the corner out of sight from everyone. “He then asked me how much money I had. He said if I paid him, he’d let me go,” Hall said. “I did not have any money at the time and I told him so. He then said if I wasn’t going to pay him, he’d have to arrest me.”

Shortly thereafter, Hall and the others were taken to the police station where Hall was handcuffed to a bench. When he asked to go to the bathroom, Watts escorted him. “While in the bathroom, Watts again told me that if I paid him, he’d let me go,” Hall said. “He told me that if I had someone who could get money and put it somewhere, he would go get it and then let me go. I told him I was broke and I couldn’t pay him.”

Hall was charged with possession of 17 baggies of cocaine. The police report said that when police saw him carrying drugs, he ran into a second floor apartment, jumped out of an open window, and was captured after a foot chase.

On April 3, 2006, Hall pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years and six months 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 the end of 2021, more than 90 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On April 22, 2022, following an investigation by the CIU, Hall’s conviction and more than 40 other convictions resulting from Watts and his fellow officers were vacated and dismissed. The dismissals brought the total number of convictions vacated in the corruption scandal to more than 200. Hall subsequently received a certificate of innocence, and was awarded $30,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois. He filed a federal lawsuit in October 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/3/2022
Last Updated: 5/19/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:3 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No