Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
  Cook County was created on January 15, 1831 and named after Daniel P. Cook, Member of Congress and the first Attorney from the State of Illinois.
   
     
     
     



The Week in Review: Record Wave of Exonerations Tied to Rogue Cop

Friday, November 17, 2017
WTTW Chicago Tonight
by Matt Masterson

To watch this entire piece click here

 

Leonard Gipson is 36 years old. He stands about 6 feet tall and weighs over 200 pounds. He’s a big man. But ask him how he felt Thursday morning standing alongside his attorney inside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after being exonerated on two separate drug convictions and he’ll tell you this: “I feel like a baby. A brand new baby.”

“I just feel like right now, it’s a brand new beginning for me,” he said. “I can start over and do what I want to do … It’s a new life for me.”

Gipson was among 15 men who had drug convictions vacated by a judge Thursday in what’s believed to be a first-of-its-kind mass exoneration in Cook County.

Each of the men were residents of the Ida B. Wells housing project, where they claimed to be harassed, intimidated and ultimately framed by disgraced former Chicago Police Department Sgt. Ronald Watts.

“As far as we're aware, there has not been anything like this (in Cook County) when it comes to vacating convictions and dismissing the cases,” said Maurice Possley, a senior researcher with the National Registry of Exonerations – a project at the University of Michigan that documents exoneration cases.

Attorney Joshua Tepfer and the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project first filed a petition seeking to clear the men’s names in September, claiming the convictions were based on falsified testimony and planted evidence.

The unprecedented announcement came in conjunction with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, specifically it’s Convictions Integrity Unity, which investigates claims of innocence in settled cases to determine if the person convicted is actually guilty.

Mark Rotert, the director of that unit, said their investigation revealed officers were not being truthful, meaning his office could no longer maintain confidence in their reports or testimony.

“So in good conscience we could not see these convictions stand,” he told media following the hearing.

Each of the arrests in these cases came between 2003-08.

The police misconduct was spearheaded by Watts, CPD Officer Kallatt Mohammed and other officers on their tactical team, who would routinely extort residents at the housing project. If they didn’t pay up, the cops would then allegedly plant felony-level drug amounts on them and lie about it under oath.

Gipson has claimed Watts did this to him twice in 2003, demanding thousands of dollars. After pleading guilty and serving two years in prison, he said Watts again framed him in 2007, leading to another year behind bars.

“Everyone knew … if you’re not going to pay Watts, you’re going to jail,” Gipson said. “That’s just the way it was gonna go.”

Another one of the exonerees, 58-year-old Phillip Thomas, said he was victimized for years.

“It got to the point where when I stepped outside my door I felt like I had to run,” he said. “There was no way of getting away from them. They would plant drugs on you, beat you, they came to court and testified in my case as credible police officers and all the time it was nothing but lies.”

Thomas was framed twice, and spent more than six years in prison. He said he’s currently on disability and used the “better years of my life” either running from Watts or serving time. On Thursday he felt vindicated for the first time.

Like the rest of the men cleared, Thomas has already completed his sentence. But criminal convictions left on their records have kept the men from finding steady work since their release.

“Right now we’re in a position where we’re not getting jobs, we’re in a position where we’re all trying,” Gipson said. “And it’s all because of backgrounds … it’s tough for us all right now, but now we have an opportunity to do something better with our lives. And hopefully we make it happen.”

The exonerees, their attorneys and families filled the lobby Thursday morning at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. (Matt Masterson / Chicago Tonight)

Watts was eventually arrested on federal charges after he was recorded attempting to steal money from a federal agent posing as a drug courier. He was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson issued a statement Thursday morning condemning Watts and saying they have “zero tolerance” for any sort of police misconduct or abuse.

Tepfer said there have already been 26 drug-related convictions overturned in cases stemming from Watts’ arrests. But that may only be the tip of the iceberg as his office is already looking into several more.

“I don’t have the raw numbers,” he said. “I think we’re vetting a dozen to two dozen (other cases).”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | mmasterson@wttw.com | (773) 509-5431

 



Recent Headlines

Special prosecutor billed Cook County nearly 50K for Van Dyke murder case
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board votes in favor of $4 million settlement in Stroger medical malpractice case
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Judge bucks Cook County law, says boys as young as 10 can be locked up
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Village of Northbrook Opts Back In to the Cook County Earned Sick Leave Ordinance
Monday, October 15, 2018
National Law Review

Chicago health system to add 240+ jobs
Monday, October 15, 2018
Becker's Hospital Review

Fired doctor sues county, loses whistleblower claim
Friday, October 12, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County health system to add jobs
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

No layoffs or tax hike in mayoral hopeful Preckwinkle’s proposed county budget
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

'Inclusionary' housing ordinance rewrite advances
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Evanston Now

Faced with tight budgets, more Illinois counties merge clerk, recorder offices
Monday, October 08, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Class action: Hundreds of Cook Sheriff officer suspensions invalid, because State's Attorney not involved
Friday, October 05, 2018
Cook County Record

One Cook County judge bucks chief judge’s order against unaffordably high bail
Monday, October 01, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Game of thrones? Watchdog sees ‘scheme to defraud’ in Pritzker toilet tax break
Monday, October 01, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

County Board approves $31M election equipment contract despite lawsuit; $11M to settle 2 malpractice lawsuits
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Chicago Tribune

County approves new election equipment contract, despite rival firm’s lawsuit
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Top prosecutor Kim Foxx apologizes as 18 convictions linked to corrupt cop vacated
Monday, September 24, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Preteens out of detention before trial under new ordinance
Friday, September 14, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Board bars detention of youth under 13 years old
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Injustice Watch

Preteens accused of crimes won't be locked up at Cook County juvenile center
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Slowik: Cook County offers residents last chance to comment on strategic plan
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Daily Southtown

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP