Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Gregory Molette

Summary of the Watts Scandal
On September 5, 2006, Chicago police officers working with Sgt. Ronald Watts arrested 28-year-old Gregory Molette at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois and took him to a police station.

Molette later said that an officer searched him and found a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. The officer asked “where the rest of it was and I told him I had no idea what he was talking about,” Molette later said.

At the police station, Molette was not charged with possession of the marijuana in his pocket. He did see a large bag of marijuana on a table. He was taken to a lockup where a lockup officer later said he was being charged with possession of the marijuana on the table—a total of 85 grams (about three ounces). “The marijuana was not mine and they did not recover it from me,” Molette said.

On October 20, 2006, after 45 days in custody, Molette told his public defender that “I was innocent and didn’t have the drugs they said I had. The public defender just told me that I had a chance to take a deal, but if I didn’t take it that day, I might get more time.”

So Molette pled guilty that day in Cook County Circuit Court to felony possession of marijuana. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

In 2012, Watts and a 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.

Federal prosecutors said Watts “used 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 protections 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 trial 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 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

On February 11, 2020, Molette’s conviction, along with convictions of 11 other people framed by Watts and his fellow officers, was vacated and dismissed following an investigation by the CIU. The dismissals brought the total of dismissed cases to nearly 80.

In July 2020, Molette was granted a certificate of innocence which allowed him to file a claim for compensation from the state of Illinois. In December 2020, Molette was awarded $50,000 in compensation by the Illinois Court of Claims. He also filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 4/27/2023
Last Updated: 12/6/2023
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No