Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Maurice Delphie

Summary of the Watts scandal
On February 24, 2004, 27-year-old Maurice Delphie went to visit an acquaintance at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois. When he knocked on the door, no one answered. He assumed everyone inside was asleep.

He decided to wait outside on the sidewalk. About five minutes later, an unmarked police car stopped at the curb, and two officers working in a unit headed by Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, got out. They searched Delphie, but found nothing. Then, the officers handcuffed Delphie and put him in the police car.

“I asked why they were arresting me, but they did not answer,” Delphie later said.

The officers drove to a different building in the housing complex and stopped. The officer who was in the passenger seat went into the building. “When the officer came back from the building, he showed me a bag that looked like it had drugs in it, and he said words to the effect of: ‘This is yours,’” Delphie recalled.

Delphie said he had never seen the bag before. The officers drove him to the police station. “At the station, I tried to tell other officers that I had been falsely arrested, but no one cared,” Delphie said.

Delphie later learned that the officers claimed they had arrested him in a vacant apartment and that they saw him put a clear plastic bag containing heroin underneath a portion of drywall.

The claims were false, Delphie said. However, his assistant public defender advised him to plead guilty. “I knew that I could get a longer sentence if I lost my trial,” Delphie said.

On June 8, 2004, Delphie pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of heroin. He was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released on August 22, 2005.

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 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 February 1, 2022, following an investigation by the CIU, the convictions of 19 others who were framed by Watts and his fellow officers, were vacated, and the charges were dismissed. In April 2022, more than 40 more convictions resulting from the corrupt actions of Watts and his crew were vacated and dismissed, bringing the total number of convictions vacated to more than 200.

On October 13, 2023, Delphie’s conviction was vacated, and the charge was dismissed. He was granted a certificate of innocence and awarded $50,000 in state compensation from the state of Illinois. Delphie also filed a federal lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Chicago.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 12/11/2023
Last Updated: 7/9/2024
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:27
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No