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Larry Hinton

Summary of Watts scandal
On May 30, 2008, 31-year-old Larry Hinton was taking a friend, Sherod Gibbs, to his apartment in the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, when he decided to take a small detour to say hello to a friend who lived at 38th Street and Michigan Avenue.

Also in the car was Larry’s 29-year-old cousin, Roy Hinton, who rode in the passenger seat. Gibbs and Larry’s brother, Torrance Hinton, were in the back seat.

When they pulled up at 38th Street, Larry’s friend, who he knew as “Stutter,” saw them, said he would be right back, and turned to go into the building where he lived. Larry Hinton was parked in a bus stop zone, so he decided to go south on Michigan Avenue and circle back.

But between 40th and 41st Street, several police cars with lights flashing pulled up. Several police officers approached, including Sgt. Ronald Watts and officer Kallatt Mohammed. All four were ordered out of the vehicle and were searched. The vehicle also was searched. Nothing illegal was found.

Gibbs later said, “I saw the officers searching the car, and they did not find anything illegal in the car. Then an officer walked from the direction we had driven and said words to the effect of: ‘We found it.’ I understood the officer to be saying that he found drugs.”

All four were taken to the police station. There, Torrance and Gibbs were released. The police used money they confiscated from Larry and Roy Hinton to buy pizzas which were delivered to the station.

Larry and Roy were charged with possession of 21 bags of heroin. The police said they saw Larry hand the drugs to Roy who tossed them out the window of the vehicle.

On May 4, 2009, Larry Hinton pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years in prison. On May 28, 2009, Roy Hinton pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to one year 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, Roy and Larry Hinton’s convictions, 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. The Hintons subsequently received certificates of innocence, paving the way to seek compensation from the state of Illinois. In August 2022, Larry Hinton was awarded $50,000 in state compensation, including $2,000 in attorney's fees. They filed a federal lawsuit in October 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/6/2022
Last Updated: 5/19/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:3 years
Age at the date of reported crime:31
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No