Chicago Cops Planted Drugs, Exoneree Says

     CHICAGO (CN) — After serving nearly a decade in prison for crimes he claims he did not commit, a man accuses Chicago cops in a federal complaint of planting drugs.
     While Ben Baker, now 44, was living with his partner, Clarissa Glenn, and their three sons in the Ida B. Wells housing complex on the South Side of Chicago in 2004, it was “actively patrolled by a tactical team of [Chicago Police Department] CPD officers led by [Police Sergeant Ronald] Watts,” the 42-page lawsuit states.
     Watts’ team was “well-known” at the now-demolished Wells, where “they maintained a visible presence and they had a reputation among residents of harassing young black men,” Baker claims in his complaint
     Government officials knew of Watts and his crew’s alleged misconduct as early as 1999, and by 2004, an FBI investigation was well underway, Baker adds.
     When police supposedly found drugs in a mailbox at Wells in June 2004, Baker learned that Watts planned to frame him, according to the lawsuit.
     “Watts told Mr. Baker that if he gave Watts a $1,000 bribe, Mr. Baker would still have to ‘fight the case’ but that Watts would ensure that Mr. Baker would ‘beat it,'” the lawsuit states.
     Weeks after Baker refused, Watts and other officers “stormed Mr. Baker’s home with their guns drawn” and handcuffed him, according to the lawsuit.
     “If we don’t find nothing [in the house] you’re going [to jail] for what was in the mailbox,” Watts allegedly told Baker.
     Though the officers’ illegal search revealed no drugs at Baker’s home, they arrested him anyway and falsely charged him with drugs in a mailbox, he claims.
     After Baker spent four-and-a-half months awaiting trial in Cook County Jail, the trial judge granted his motion to suppress evidence and dismissed the case, the lawsuit states.
     Sergeant Alvin Jones allegedly “promised that next time they would make charges against Mr. Baker ‘stick.'”
     The officers arrested Baker at Wells again in 2005, while he was on his way to get his mother a birthday gift, according to the lawsuit.
     “I told you we were going to get you,” Jones allegedly said to Baker.
     The officers falsely charged Baker with possession of heroin and cocaine with the intent to deliver, according to the complaint.
     Baker and Glenn allegedly “took several steps to attempt to expose the misconduct and corruption of the defendant officers, including making complaints directly to the CPD.”
     The officers, in turn, confronted Glenn, calling her a “bitch,” telling her that she would wind up in prison with Baker and warning her to “be careful,” the lawsuit states.
     Plus, when Baker was on bond, Watts forced the couple out of their truck at Wells, and “pulled a plastic bundle that appeared to contain narcotics out of his sleeve, falsely claiming that he found the narcotics in the truck,” according to the lawsuit.
     Glenn knew a guilty verdict could land her in prison for at least four years, leaving their children with no parents to raise them, so she “had no real choice but to accept” the state’s attorney’s offer to reduce her charges in exchange for guilty pleas by both, the lawsuit states.
     Baker was convicted in 2006 of two counts of possession of controlled substances and ultimately sentenced to 14 years in prison on each count, the lawsuit states.
     He says he “would not have been convicted if it were not for the defendant officers’ fabrication of evidence and withholding of exculpatory evidence.”
     After serving nearly a decade, Baker was exonerated in March 2016, after Watts was indicted in 2012 for robbing drug couriers and fabricating stories against an FBI informant.
     Baker sued the city, Watts, Jones, 15 other named officers, and unnamed officers in Chicago federal court Thursday.
     The 10-count complaint alleges violations of due process and the First Amendment; federal malicious prosecution; failure to intervene; conspiracy; emotional distress; respondeat superior; and indemnification.
     Baker seeks a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
     He is represented by Elizabeth Mazur with Loevy & Loevy in Boulder, Colo. and Chicago.
     The city did not return a request for comment emailed Monday.

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