A Cook County judge on Thursday threw out the felony drug convictions of 15 black men who all say they were locked up for no other reason except that they refused to pay Ronald Watts.One by one, the men told the same story: A Chicago police officer would demand money from them. And if they didn’t pay, they would find themselves in handcuffs with drugs stuffed in their pockets.“Everyone knew if you’re not going to pay Watts, you were going to jail. That’s just the way it was going,” said Leonard Gipson, 36, who had two convictions tossed out.
The lead attorney for the 15 men whose drug cases were thrown out said as many as 500 additional convictions need to be checked out.“It needs to be investigated and vetted about how many of those are appropriate to overturn,” Joshua Tepfer told reporters after the charges had been tossed. “We are very much in the process of doing that.”Mark Rotert, head of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s Conviction Integrity Unit whose investigation led to the dismissals, promised a careful review of remaining cases tied to Watts and his crew, though he declined to say how many that might involve.