A journalist and advocate is planning to ask a Cook County judge on Tuesday for help identifying wrongful convictions tied to Ronald Watts, a corrupt former South Side sergeant.
Jamie Kalven’s 49-page petition asks LeRoy K. Martin Jr., the presiding Cook County criminal judge, to appoint a “special master” with subpoena powers to “investigate the propriety of convictions obtained due to arrests by (Watts) or officers working under his supervision.”
Watts and Kallatt Mohammed, one of those officers, both pleaded guilty after their 2012 arrest for stealing drug money from what turned out to be an FBI informant. Both were sentenced to federal prison.
Officers who investigated Watts and his team have described corruption allegations spanning more than a decade.
Ben Baker, a man arrested by the team, spent almost 10 years in Illinois prison before his release and exoneration this year.
“The public record is replete with credible and/or already acknowledged examples of Watts and his crew framing individuals for crimes they did not commit during their decade-long reign of corruption,” the petition says.
The petition, signed by Kalven’s attorney Joshua Tepfer, points to what could be a precedent — the court’s 2014 appointment of David N. Yellen, then-dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, to serve as special master to identify victims of disgraced Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.