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Cook County Prosecutors Signal Agreement to Overturn Convictions Over 50 Watts, Attorney Says – NBC Chicago

The Cook County Attorney’s Office has signaled that it plans to continue efforts to overturn more than 50 convictions against dozens of people with cases related to disgraced Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts, who may have the largest mass exoneration in the history of Cook County, an attorney for those individuals said Friday.

83 people are currently petitioning the court to overturn a total of 95 convictions related to Watts, who spent nearly a decade in prison for his team’s shakedowns and defamation of residents at the former Ida B. Wells housing project.

More than 100 convictions related to the Watts scandal have already been overturned in recent years, including 23 counts against 18 people on the same day in 2018, in Cook County’s largest mass exoneration to date.

However, according to attorney Joshua Tepfer, who is representing those seeking relief, a mass relief with more than twice that number could be imminent. He said Cook County Attorney Kim Foxx’s office on Friday announced plans to formally agree to vacate more than 50 of the remaining 95 convictions at a status hearing next week.

Tepfer said prosecutors discussed their intent on those petitions while in court on another matter Friday, with a hearing on the status of the Watts cases scheduled for Tuesday. At that point, the prosecution is expected to inform the court of their position. A spokeswoman for prosecutors said Friday prosecutors were “unable to comment on pending litigation.”

NBC 5 investigates the code of silence scandal that plagued the Chicago Police Department when prosecutors on Thursday dropped the convictions of five other men linked to corrupt ex-Sgt. Ronald Watts. This is reported by Phil Rogers of NBC 5 Investigates.

After Tuesday’s hearing, the judge will set dates for deciding those petitions, Tepfer said. Exactly how many of the 83 people will be affected is not clear, only prosecutors have said more than 50 of the 95 convictions will be, Tepfer said.

“When this has happened before, the judges have agreed to our requested relief, I think every time, so hopefully I expect the same,” Tepfer said, calling the move “a really big deal.”

“If you just take a big step back, I mean we’re talking numbers and, you know, vague things, but I mean, 160 times now it’s been acknowledged that this incredibly corrupt group of cops tricked innocent people and sent them ins Prison, you know, we’re talking hundreds of years of wrongful imprisonment,” he said. “It’s just amazing and sad. And it’s great that the Cook County Attorney’s Office is willing to participate in this process to right these wrongs.”

The status hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Erica Reddick.

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