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Judge throws out convictions of 8 people with cases connected to disgraced Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts

A Cook County judge on Monday threw out convictions for eight people whose cases were related to former Chicago police Sgt. Ronald Watts and his crew.

Judge Erica Reddick vacated the convictions and sentences for the men in response to jointly filed motions by their lawyers and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors then dismissed the charges.

The convictions are among more than 200 thrown out in connection to the disgraced police sergeant, who has been accused of automatically framing people at the former Ida B. Wells public housing complex on the South Side. Watts and a team of tactical officers false cases against people who refused to pay a “protection tax.”

In April, Reddick threw out 44 convictions related to Watts after prosecutors changed course and agreed that they should be vacated.

Watts was charged in 2012 with shaking down a drug courier who turned out to be an FBI agent and was sentenced to 22 months in prison.

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Monday’s group included four gun-related cases, marking the first such cases related to Watts thrown out in years, lawyers for the men said. Only one previous gun case was tossed.

“We have long said that Watts and his team were involved in planting guns as well as drugs,” said attorney Joshua Tepfer, who represented seven of the eight people.

The petitions from the men whose cases were thrown out detail incidents of Watts of his crew planting drugs or guns and sometimes beating them. In one case, the petition included a police report with a mug shot of a 19-year-old arrested on drug and gun charges showing a black eye and a bruised face.

“We’re really happy for those guys,” Tepfer said. “They’ve been waiting a long time.”

Attorneys who have been handling the cases say they are nearing the end of their review of criminal cases, though will keep taking cases that emerge. That leaves a raft of civil litigation that the attorneys say the city continues to fight.

“The city of Chicago makes a lot of noise about trying to be an inclusive city, but yet it defends these officers that ran roughshod over this community of people for a long time,” said Sean Starr, a lawyer for some of the men.

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