Crooked Cops Cost Ben Baker a Decade of His Life
CHICAGO – This morning Ben Baker filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Chicago and 17 police officers for framing him and covering it up for the decade he sat in prison.
The lawsuit alleges that a “code of silence” throughout the Chicago Police Department allowed disgraced former Police Sergeant Ronald Watts to run an extortion ring with impunity in the former Ida B. Wells housing project in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the city’s south side. Watts and Officer Kallatt Mohammed—who is also named in the lawsuit—were convicted of bribing a federal informant several years ago.
From 2004-2006, Mr. Baker was arrested three different times by members of Watts and his tactical team for alleged drug dealing. In each instance, however, the drugs were planted by Watts and members of his crew—first in retaliation for Baker refusing to bribe Watts and then for Baker attempting to expose the corruption. Baker testified to these facts at his 2006 trial but was not believed. He was ultimately convicted twice and sentenced to terms totaling 18 years in prison.
Earlier this year, both of Mr. Baker’s convictions were vacated. He received two Certificates of Innocence.
Recently released documents show that the FBI and Chicago Police Internal Affairs had Sgt. Watts and members of his tactical team under investigation for a systemic pattern of corruption while the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was prosecuting Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker alleges that if City officials had disclosed to him the information they knew about the pattern of misconduct, he would have used that information in his defense and not been convicted.
Several of the officers named in the suit as taking part in the alleged corruption remain Chicago police officers today.
After Mr. Baker’s conviction, two CPD Officers, Shannon Spaulding and Daniel Echeverria blew the whistle on Watts’ tactical team and joined the ongoing FBI investigation. Instead of being rewarded for exposing police corruption, Spaulding and Echeverria alleged that top police brass retaliated against them. Earlier this year, the City settled a lawsuit with Spaulding and Echeverria on the eve of trial for $2 million.