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87 Exonerated in Corrupt Strike Team Prosecutions

If you remember the hit television show The Shield, it followed the efforts of Vic Mackey and his “strike team” which was used exclusively for highly dangerous raids and anti-gang and drug efforts. Mackey ran the streets like a crime lord, however, making deals with some gangs while squeezing out others. In the process, he broke just about every law on the books, killed several people, and eventually admitted to everything in a plea bargain.

Real-life Victor Mackeys do exist and one of them, Sgt. Ronald Watts operated right here in Chicago. Watts is alleged to have extorted drug dealers, stolen drug cash, and coerced confessions from suspects using torture tactics. In 2012, Watts and another officer were convicted of federal theft of public services and extortion in a housing project. 

Since Watts has been in prison, the States Attorney’s office has agreed to the exonerations of 87 criminal defendants who were facing time on Watts-related allegations. Nonetheless, there are hundreds more who claim that they were convicted on coerced confessions, planted evidence, and more.

Lawyers Queue Up to Help Victims

While 87 exonerations is a lot, there are still 88 more who are filing petitions with the States Attorney’s office to have their cases reheard. In many instances, these individuals were arrested alongside others who have already received exonerations. While we are not privy to why these 87 individuals were exonerated and the other 88 still languishing in prison, we can guess that there are more exonerations coming and it would likely behoove the state not to force these cases into retrial as the costs would be too high.

The 88 individuals who were not offered exonerations have filed a petition with the court to have their cases heard and dismissed immediately. 

Playing Landlord

The fictional character in The Shield essentially played landlord to the city’s drug dealers and gangs. He would extort protection money from the gangs to look the other way while they were conducting their business. In exchange, the strike team was paid to look the other way. Essentially, this is what you would refer to as a “landlord.” Someone to whom street-level dealers and gangs “kick-up” to maintain their operation. That was exactly what was happening here in the streets of Chicago.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the convicted are hoping to secure the release of the 88 individuals who have cases that are substantially similar to those who have already been exonerated. 

The panel which was tasked with reviewing Watts cases made fast headway, but then the progress appeared to stop entirely. Lawyers for Watts defendants are hoping to force the court to rule on the 88 prisoners who are still behind bars as quickly as possible.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Some criminals recognize that a badge makes their job easier. If you are being charged by an untrustworthy officer, the Chicago criminal defense attorney, David Freidberg, can help get the charges against you dismissed. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more. 

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