Drug charges against a Chicago man serving a 14-year sentence and who said he was framed by a corrupt faction of the Chicago Police Department are expected to be dropped Thursday morning, meaning the man, Ben Baker, could go free as early as Thursday afternoon, the Chicago Tribune reported. Baker asked for a new trial last month, with his attorneys arguing that records show Chicago police knew there were corruption allegations against the arresting officer, former Sgt. Ronald Watts, and his team, but didn’t do anything about them.
"This conviction should have never happened, but we are delighted that once the case got on their radar, the state's attorney's office acted quickly and decisively,” Joshua Tepfer, Baker’s lawyer, told the Tribune.
Watts arrested Baker, 43, in 2005, saying he found Baker dealing drugs in a public housing complex, but Baker later testified that Watts and his team nearly controlled the complex, taking money from drugs sales and trying to collect protection money from drug dealers, WMAQ-TV in Chicago reported. Watts was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 2013 after being caught in an FBI sting trying to steal money from a drug dealer who was an informant for the agency. Watts resigned from the police force before pleading guilty.
Watts’ case has brought the Chicago Department’s long alleged code of silence into the spotlight once again, something Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said is a problem the department has to address. Some Chicago police leaders and the city’s police union have denied the existence of the alleged code of silence in the department.
Drug charges to be thrown out over alleged police corruption https://t.co/AfLAWFYsMt
— ChicagoBreaking (@ChicagoBreaking) January 14, 2016
The issue of the code of silence in the city had been further thrust into the public eye following the release of a video of the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, who has been indicted for the shooting. McDonald was shot 16 times in October 2014, and the video of his shooting wasn’t released until more than a year later, an event that led to the ousting of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and repeated calls for Emanuel to step down from office.