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Dwayne Holmes

Summary of Watts Scandal
On November 25, 2006, 22-year-old Dwayne Holmes went to a fifth floor apartment in a building in the Ida B. Wells public housing development where the resident sold cigarettes, candy, chips and soda. As he was standing in line, two Chicago police officers came up behind him, grabbed him, and searched him. When they found nothing illegal, they turned and left.

On his way out of the building, Holmes was stopped in the lobby by Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who started asking everyone in the lobby if they lived there. Eventually, Holmes later said, Watts ordered everyone in the lobby loaded into a police squadrol and taken to the police station.

Handcuffed to a bench, Holmes was approached by Watts who asked him what he was doing in the building. “I told him I was visiting my brother,” Holmes said. “Watts had pulled some drugs out of a brown envelope and started to say they were mine. I told him repeatedly that I had already been searched by other officers and they weren’t mine.”

Watts asked if Holmes could give him some guns. “I told him I had nothing to give him,” Holmes said. “Watts then said, ‘These are your drugs.’”

Holmes was charged with possession of 25 baggies of heroin and 14 baggies of cocaine.

On January 16, 2007, Holmes pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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.

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, Holmes’s conviction, along with 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. Holmes subsequently received a certificate of innocence and was awarded $61,730 in compensation from the state of Illinois. Holmes also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/6/2022
Last Updated: 12/6/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:3 years
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No