September 16th, 2016
A 43-year-old Chicago man named Ben Baker filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that he spent over a decade in prison on false drug charges—and that the Chicago police department framed him.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Baker, who was released in January, had asserted throughout his imprisonment that Sgt. Ronald Watts planted heroin on him during a 2005 arrest. In 2012, Watts was sent to federal prison for trying to extort a drug dealer who turned out to be an FBI informant.
Baker’s case highlights the Chicago police department’s well-documented tendency to cover up officers’ wrongdoing. The lawsuit names the other cops who he says were involved in his arrest, who remain in the department.
He also told reporters he was just one of many people living in the public housing complex who were framed by Watts and that many of them remain incarcerated. According to the lawsuit, Watts would demand people pay him. If they complained or refused to pay, he’d frame them for drug dealing.
“This case is going to be about exploring the code of silence, how it happens and how it continues to happen to this day,” Baker’s attorney, Joshua Tepfer of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, said at a news conference. “It is very much alive and well.”