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Mister Lucky Pearson

Other Cook County Drug Exonerations
On November 3, 2007, 27-year-old Mister Lucky Pearson went to the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago, Illinois, to visit his daughter’s mother. As he left the third floor apartment, he encountered Officer Alvin Jones, who told him to stop.

Jones radioed his supervisor, Sgt. Ronald Watts, who was on the first floor and came up the stairs. Pearson, who knew Watts had a reputation for falsely accusing people of possessing drugs, said he was not carrying any drugs.

Watts went into the apartment from which Pearson had just exited. After several minutes, he went back downstairs and told Jones to bring Pearson to the first floor lobby, where Pearson joined several other men. Watts pulled out a bag of drugs and asked whose drugs they were.

A woman told Watts the drugs were hers, but Watts said not to worry, someone else was going to be charged. Pearson and others were taken to the police station at 51st Street and Wentworth Avenue. There, Pearson was charged with possession of cocaine.

On December 10, 2008, Pearson pled guilty in Cook County Circuit Court to possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released on July 16, 2011.

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.

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.

In December 2016, Tepfer and attorney Joel Flaxman filed a motion for a new trial on behalf of Lionel White Sr., another defendant who claimed he had been 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,” the motion said.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit agreed that White’s conviction should be vacated and dismissed the charge.

On September 24, 2018, the Cook County State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit dismissed Pearson’s conviction. Pearson was subsequently granted a certificate of innocence and was awarded $80,000 in compensation from the state of Illinois.

Pearson filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago in February 2019.

By 2018, more than 50 convictions tainted by Watts and members of his unit had been dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/9/2018
Last Updated: 6/5/2020
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
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