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Torrence Ivory

Summary of the Watts scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
Torrence Ivory was framed twice on drug possession charges by Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts and officers under his command. In both instances, Ivory was arrested at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois.

On July 27, 2004, Ivory, then 23 years old, was visiting friends who lived at the complex. They were hanging out on a sunny day when Watts and his crew of officers came up and ordered everyone into the lobby. Everyone was searched. No drugs were found, Ivory later said.

“Watts then approached me and asked me where the drugs were,” Ivory recalled. “I told him I didn’t know and that I wasn’t from Ida B. Wells. He then arrested me and took me to the station.”

Ivory said he insisted he was not at the complex to buy or sell drugs. “I told him I had a job…he then walked across the room, went into a desk, and pulled out a bag of drugs. He walked back up to me and said the drugs were mine,” Ivory said.

Ivory was charged with possessing 12 baggies of cocaine. “I told the public defender that I was being framed, but the attorney recommended that I plead out because I couldn’t beat the police,” Ivory said.

On January 20, 2005, Ivory pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to one year in prison with a recommendation of boot camp.

A year later, on January 28, 2006, Ivory was with a group of friends who had just returned from a funeral. They were in the lobby of one of the buildings in the complex when Watts and several other officers entered and ordered everyone to stand against the wall. “Watts and [officer Kallatt] Mohammed hit me in the face,” Ivory said.

After searching everyone and failing to find anything illegal, Watts and officer Alvin Jones announced that anyone who wasn’t on parole could leave. When Ivory admitted he was on parole, he was arrested.

At the police station, he was chained to a bench. After about a half hour, Jones came out of a room with a bag of drugs and put it on the table and Ivory was charged with possession of heroin.

On March 7, 2006, Ivory 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. 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. 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, both of Ivory’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.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/17/2022
Last Updated: 5/17/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:3 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No