Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Percy Bolden

Summary of the Watts scandal
On June 20, 2006, 36-year-old Percy Bolden was playing chess with Thomas Nobles in Madden Park near the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. Nobles had won the first game and they were starting the second when a group of Chicago police officers arrived.

The officers, who were part of a crew of officers supervised by police Sgt. Ronald Watts, searched both men. They found nothing illegal, so they then searched Nobles’s car. Although nothing was found, police arrested Bolden. Nobles was released.

The officers later claimed that when they arrived, they saw Bolden drop a bag containing 11 baggies of heroin and try to run away.

Bolden later said, “The officers put me in a vehicle. Officer [Kallatt] Mohammed showed me a bag of drugs and told me I was being charged with possessing drugs.”

“I never discarded a bag of drugs or any other bag,” Bolden said. “I never tried to run from the officers. And I did not have any drugs in my possession or control when I was arrested.”

On September 14, 2006, Bolden pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 30 months 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, Officer Alvin 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 (CIU) 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 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, Bolden’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. Bolden subsequently received a certificate of innocence, and was awarded $60,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois. He later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 5/17/2022
Last Updated: 4/30/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:2 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:36
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No