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Anthony Mays

Summary of Watts scandal
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Cook_County_seal.jpg
In early September 2004, 22-year-old Anthony Mays was at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, when Chicago police officer Alvin Jones, dressed in plainclothes, grabbed Mays by surprise. Mays was startled and reacted instinctively—he punched Jones in the face and fled on foot.

Several days later, on September 14, 2004, Mays was hanging out near one of the buildings in the complex when he was approached by an officer who worked with Jones as part of a crew of officers supervised by Sgt. Ronald Watts. The officer searched Mays, but found nothing illegal. The officer then marched Mays through the building and back out on the other side.

“I asked him where he was taking me, but he told me to shut up,” Mays later said. “He then walked me to the 574 [East] Browning [Avenue] building and then took me into the lobby.”

Watts and other officers were in the lobby, standing over numerous people who were on the floor. “As soon as Jones saw me, he said, ‘I got your ass now,’” Mays recalled.

Mays was charged with possession of 16 baggies of heroin. On November 3, 2004, he pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 2 years 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. 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, Mays’s conviction, along with more than 40 other convictions resulting from Watts and his fellow officers, were vacated and dismissed. This was the third exoneration for Mays. He was separately exonerated in December 2020 after being framed in 2006 and in February 2022 for a conviction resulting from drugs planted on him in 2002. 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: 5/10/2022
Last Updated: 5/10/2022
State:Illinois
County:Cook
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:2 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No