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Dirty Chicago cop gets 22 months for shaking down drug dealers

Ronald Watts former Chicago police sergeant leaves Dirksen Federal Building after receiving 22 month sentence after being found guilty for

Ronald Watts, a former Chicago police sergeant, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building after receiving a 22 month sentence after being found guilty for his role in an FBI sting operation Wednesday afternoon 10-9-13.. Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 11, 2013 12:15PM

A dirty Chicago cop who swelled his city paycheck by shaking down drug dealers was slammed for his “unconscionable” behavior Wednesday by a federal judge who sentenced him to 22 months in prison.

Former Sgt. Ronald Watts, 50, taught young people growing up in poverty in the Ida B. Wells housing projects “not to respect anything” when he demanded protection money from criminals, U.S. Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said.

Dressing down the former Army soldier and 20-year police veteran, an angry Coleman said she believed he’d been guilty of far more widespread corruption than the single count of stealing government funds he plead guilty to in July.

“This was ongoing,” she said. “You betrayed your community: the law enforcement community, the African-American community and the South Side community.”

Watts — for years a controversial figure in the Bronzeville neighborhood he patrolled — was finally nabbed alongside Officer Kallat Mohammed in a November 2011 sting.

He directed Mohammed, who was previously sentenced to 18 months, to take a bag containing $5,200 from a homeless man who was posing as a drug courier, but was actually working as an informant for the FBI.

Watts later met with the homeless man at a Walgreens parking lot in Chinatown and gave him back $400 of the stolen loot, telling him “Who takes care of you?”

The disgraced officer faced a theoretical maximum prison term of 10 years on Wednesday, though federal sentencing guidelines and Watts’ lawyer, Thomas Glasgow, suggested that between 10 and 16 months was more appropriate.

Prosecutor Margaret Schneider asked for a 3 year sentence, saying there was no way of knowing just how much Watts stole over the years.

And Coleman said she bought Schneider’s claim that Watts had previously framed the homeless man who later helped the FBI catch him.

Coleman said Watts cynically targeted the homeless man because he had a long criminal history and couldn’t fight back. “Who would believe him?” she asked.

“You were a sergeant,” she told Watts. “You were someone the community should hold up as an example, and you took advantage of that.

“The place was rampant with poverty, unemployment, addictions . . . you were there to protect these people and you didn’t.”

Watts, who shrugged and smiled at relatives after the sentence was imposed, is due to report to prison in January.

Though he earlier this year beat a civil lawsuit alleging he framed a crack addict, a second, pending lawsuit filed by two fellow Chicago cops alleges he was suspected of corruption for more than a decade.

Officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria say in their suit that they were told by supervisors to “disregard” their concerns about Watts, and were later retaliated against by CPD brass when they contacted the FBI.


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