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More men framed by corrupt ex-Chicago cop have convictions tossed

Chicago — A judge has overturned the drug convictions of 10 more men who were framed by a disgraced former Chicago police sergeant. A Cook County judge granted motions Monday filed by prosecutors to vacate the men's convictions.

Dozens of others have already been exonerated after alleging they had drugs planted on them or were otherwise framed after refusing to pay former Sgt. Ronald Watts or his tactical team. The exonerees said Watts and his team terrorized them in or near the former Ida B. Wells housing project in Bronzeville between 2003 and 2008, CBS Chicago reported.

Prosecutors have said Watts and the officers under his command routinely planted evidence and fabricated charges in order to further their own gun and drug trade, CBS Chicago reported. Watts and another officer were arrested in 2012 when they shook down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI informant. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to federal prison. 

Watts, who received a 22-month term, was released in 2015 and later moved to Las Vegas, records show.

The cases dropped Monday marked the fourth mass exoneration linked to Watts and his team, CBS Chicago reported. Four more men with cases linked to the corrupt former cop are expected to be exonerated on Wednesday, the station reported. Their cases are part of an ongoing review by the office of Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx. Attorneys for the 14 men said they were framed by Watts and members of his tactical team. Some of the men spent years in prison on drug charges.

According to the Chicago Law School's Exoneration Project, following Monday and Wednesday's court hearings, 63 people will have had 82 convictions tied to Watts and his team dismissed.  

Defense attorneys say there are dozens more people with credible claims waiting to have their cases reviewed, the station reported.

After court Monday, the 10 newly exonerated men — represented by the Exoneration Project — said they were looking forward to starting a new chapter in their lives, which were deeply impacted by Watts, the station reported. Exoneree Kim Wilbourn said he's still haunted by what happened to him years ago.

"To this day, I am not physically capable to go to sleep right. I can't eat the same anymore. The way I think is messed up. I can't get a job. I'm physically capable, but what this man did to me destroyed any capability of me becoming something," he said.

Fifteen current Chicago police officers tied to Watts' team have been but on desk duty in the wake of the scandal, according to the  Exoneration Project. 

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