Innocence Certificates Withheld For 5 Exonerated Men

Mike Krauser
March 16, 2018 - 9:08 am

CHICAGO (AP/WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Five men who were among 15 that were part of the largest mass-exoneration in Cook County history have been denied certificates of innocence that would clear their names and allow cash payouts.

The five men were allegedly framed with drug charges by a Chicago police sergeant, but Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. ruled Thursday that because the men only received probation as a result of former Sgt. Ronald Watts' actions, they don't qualify for the certificates.

Martin encouraged lawyers for the men to file an appeal, saying he would "be okay with the appellate court reversing" him.

Defense attorney Joshua Tepfer said he would appeal Martin's ruling. He argued that the definition of imprisonment could be interpreted to include probation. A certificate would clear their records.

"What it means also is the opportunity to petition the court acclaims for statutory accusation for money and we don't hide from that. That's really important. These people lost their livelihood," Tepfer said.

In February, the judge granted certificates of innocence to nine other men who served prison time based on convictions built on false testimony by Watts and members of the tactical unit he commanded. Watts was charged with and convicted of shaking down an FBI informant.

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