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Whitlock: Leftists make lowly police sergeant Ronald Watts the star of ‘Framing Day: The Plot to Destroy America’s Criminal Justice System’
Chicago Tribune / Contributor, Chicago Tribune / Contributor | Getty Images

Whitlock: Leftists make lowly police sergeant Ronald Watts the star of ‘Framing Day: The Plot to Destroy America’s Criminal Justice System’

USA Today's front-page story on Feb. 9 claims a single arrest for drug possession in November 2007 ruined the life of JaJuan Nile, a naive Chicago man with big dreams 16 years ago.

Above the fold, America’s newspaper splashed a huge picture of Nile’s sister, Shawntell, grasping a necklace locket containing her deceased brother’s ashes. Below the fold, accompanying the story, Shawntell is captured standing in the street holding a large, framed photo of JaJuan, who was murdered in 2020.

The writer, Grace Hauck, paints a tragic story of the journey that led to JaJuan’s difficult life and premature demise at age 34.

JaJuan Nile was a joker, a picky eater and his mother’s only son. Growing up, he dreamed of starting a landscaping business.

But he never got the chance. Instead, a run-in with a
now-disgraced Chicago police officer put the 20-year-old behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. It changed the course of his life, his family said.

Nile was charged with possession of cocaine in 2007 and sentenced to three years in prison. With a felony on his record, he was repeatedly denied jobs and apartments.

Two years ago, just after he received his certificate of innocence and landed a job, the father of three young kids was fatally shot.

“He never got to his full potential because of what happened to him. It definitely led him to do other things, led him to get discouraged,” his younger sister, Shawntell Nile, told USA Today.

Hauck’s story then pivots to its villain, former Chicago police sergeant Ronald Watts, and its hero, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

For almost a decade, Watts and his team preyed on innocent people at the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project, where they extorted money and planted drugs and guns, knowing their victims – largely black and low-income residents – wouldn’t be believed, said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Nile is one of nearly 200 people Foxx has exonerated of criminal charges loosely – and I mean very loosely – related to Watts’ work as a supervising sergeant in the Ida B. Wells area. In 2013, Watts and an underling pleaded guilty to stealing roughly $5,000 in government funds from an undercover informant. He served 20 months in federal prison.

Since then, the guilty plea made him a pawn in the nationwide, highly popular criminal justice reform movement. The University of Chicago’s Law School Exoneration Project and Kim Foxx turned Watts into the face of police corruption in Chicago. Any criminal conviction or arrest Watts supervised or participated in, the Exoneration Project and Foxx have basically deemed as wrongful convictions. As a state’s attorney, Foxx has tossed out hundreds of convictions and cut the alleged victims enormous checks.

Shortly before his murder, Nile’s 2007 conviction was overturned. He received $70,000 for his trouble.

Here’s the problem. In the three years before the November 2007 arrest that destroyed JaJuan Nile’s life, Chicago police arrested Nile on 10 different occasions. During an eight-month span in 2004, police arrested Nile for drug possession, disorderly conduct, theft, and possession with intent. The final arrest led to a one-year sentence. He was released in a few months.

Despite yo-yoing in and out of jail, in 2005 and 2006, police arrested Nile for possession of a controlled substance, heroin possession, and gun possession. The arrests were parole violations that led to more stints behind bars. In 2007, before Nile’s life-altering arrest loosely involving Watts, police popped Nile once for possession of less than two grams of dope and twice for trespassing.

It was Nile’s 11th arrest that ended his dream of starting a landscaping company and mowing lawns across Chicago.

Today, on my show, “Fearless with Jason Whitlock,” Ronald Watts is going to defend himself and explain what’s going on in Chicago as it relates to criminal justice reform and police corruption. Until now, Watts has never consented to an interview. He now resides in Arizona. He’s a defendant in a class-action lawsuit that seeks hundreds of millions of dollars from the Chicago police department and the city of Chicago.

I talked extensively with Watts Thursday evening. We discussed the USA Today story and the other “innocent victims” depicted in Grace Hauck’s fictional narrative. In Hauck’s telling, Watts is Alonzo Harris, the infamous Denzel Washington character in the movie “Training Day,” a dirty cop who bullied the poor while enriching himself and his co-workers. Watts characterizes himself as a patsy for the political aspirations of Foxx, the Democrat Party, and a movement to undermine and disrupt the criminal justice system.

“Foxx is using this solely to advance her career,” he said. “Like a lot of these progressive politicians, they don’t really care about the working poor. She only wants to score points with the progressive base. To use that reputation … that false reputation for higher office, like [United States Senator Dick] Durbin’s seat or some big law firm job. The thing is that this is my real life. These lies impact me and my loved ones. It’s wrong. It’s evil.”

Watts passionately defended his work and the work of his peers as Chicago police officers.

“The Ida B. Wells was an open-air drug market, and everyone knew it. The politicians, everyone,” he said. “The officers that I supervised went down there to help the residents, the people you aren’t hearing from. These drug dealers playing victim were the victimizers. They made those buildings dangerous and almost unlivable. They generally obstructed the lives of the working poor blacks uninvolved in the drug trade. That’s the truth. But evil don’t care about the truth.”

I don’t know the truth of the crime Watts pleaded to in 2013. I will ask him to explain during our public interview today. What I do know is the USA Today story is as sloppy and unprofessional a story as I’ve ever read. It takes the word of convicted criminals as fact without any resistance.

Midway through the story, Hauck writes about Larry Lomax, another alleged victim of Watts’ corrupt policing. The story claims that in January 2003, Lomax left his job to deliver cash to his brother, who was dying of thyroid cancer.

“Lomax was walking up the ramp of his brother’s building when officers grabbed him from behind, beat him, knocked out some of his teeth and took the money,” Hauck wrote.

Watts was at the scene of Lomax’s arrest.

At the police station, Lomax asked an officer what he’d been charged with.

“Watts told me that if I would say that the guys I was arrested with had been selling drugs and that I had seen them with the drugs, they would let me go,” Lomax said in an affidavit.

Compelled by Lomax’s retelling, in 2020 Foxx exonerated Lomax’s drug possession conviction, for which he received a two-month sentence and two years’ probation at the time. The exoneration of the 2003 crime came with a $40,000 check to Lomax.

Here’s the problem. Lomax’s criminal record, which stretches back to 1975, includes disorderly conduct, aggravated battery with great bodily harm, and multiple arrests for drug possession.

“He’s a hype,” Watts explained.

A “hype” is slang for a drug addict. Court documents from 2003 reveal Lomax stating under oath during a plea hearing that the possession charges against him were true and that he was acting as a “rooster” (lookout) as drugs were being sold. The judge asked him several times whether he disagreed with any of the allegations against him. Lomax objected to prosecutors describing him as a drug user, and he said it was inaccurate to say he personally knew the main, higher-up defendants in the drug case.

Lomax never disputed his role in the crime until word spread nearly two decades later that Kim Foxx was routinely exonerating convictions supervised by Watts.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has even objected to Foxx’s exoneration assembly line.

“I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Kim Foxx and her team, but they’re handing out certificates of innocence like they’re candy,” Lightfoot told reporters in January. “And we have worked hard to help educate them on the challenge that puts us in. We’ve got some police officers who are now afraid to go into court and give testimony.”

While building a resume as a police reformer and rehabilitating her reputation from the Jussie Smollett hoax fiasco, Foxx is going to personally bankrupt Chicago.

One Chicago career criminal, Ben Baker, received $188,000 from Foxx and the University of Chicago Law School’s criminal reparations project. Baker used the money to buy drugs from a DEA informant. He was just recently released from prison.

The coalition of corporate media, liberal universities, and leftist politicians has wreaked havoc in Chicago and Illinois for decades. Northwestern’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism was instrumental in overturning the death penalty in the state. Northwestern’s Innocence Project freed Anthony Porter from death row in 1999 by framing another man — Alstory Simon — for the murders Porter clearly committed. Working in conjunction with Chicago media, the Innocence Project used the publicity around Porter’s “wrongful conviction” to pressure then-Governor George Ryan to enact a statewide moratorium on executions in 2000. Days before leaving office, Ryan granted clemency to every Illinois prisoner on death row. In 2011, the state abolished the death penalty.

Ryan credited Northwestern students and Anthony Porter for his actions.

“He was exonerated by Northwestern students,” Ryan claimed.

Here’s the problem. Investigators eventually proved that the professor leading the Innocence Project and a private investigator framed Simon and coerced the mentally challenged man into a false confession. A 2014 documentary, “A Murder in the Park,” exposed the unscrupulous tactics used to free Anthony Porter and convict Alstory Simon.

The documentary is brilliant. It explains how death penalty abolitionists used a violent murderer (Porter) to sway political and public opinion about the death penalty. Simon spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Upon his release, Simon sued the Medill School of Journalism and settled for an undisclosed amount.

What we’re seeing with Ronald Watts is not new. It’s standard operating procedure for leftists trying to promote criminal justice reform. They find a patsy, a liberal university, and a handful of woke journalists to create a false narrative and stir up public outrage. Then they let political opportunists ride the wave of outrage to institute resume-building policies.

George Ryan ended the death penalty. Kim Foxx is giving career criminals large stimulus checks while fixing ostensibly corrupt police departments. She’ll use her reformer reputation to advance her career.

Nothing will improve for Chicago taxpayers. There will just be more criminals on the streets and less respect for authority and law enforcement. America inches one step closer to calling itself a failure, writing a new Constitution, federalizing policing, and embracing Marxism.

All because Ronald Watts “framed” JaJuan Nile, Larry Lomax, and so many other innocent young men.

“Framing has a legal definition, doesn’t it?” Watts rhetorically asked me Thursday. “Kim Foxx is Cook County’s lead attorney, isn’t she? She should know better. How could I have framed any of these people when I didn’t determine probable cause to arrest them? I didn’t arrest them. I didn’t draft any reports of the arrests. I didn’t charge them with any offenses. I didn’t speak to the prosecuting body about the arrests. I didn’t testify at the grand jury or preliminary hearings regarding the arrests. For a lot of these arrests, I wasn’t there, and if I was there, it was solely in a supervisory role. These people weren’t framed. They were a blight on the community. The men and women that I supervised were good officers who wouldn’t frame people.”

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to note that the USA Today story appeared on the front page of the paper Feb. 9. It ran online Feb. 5.

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock

BlazeTV Host

Jason Whitlock is the host of “Fearless with Jason Whitlock” and a columnist for Blaze News.
@WhitlockJason →