A corrupt Chicago cop destroyed hundreds of lives. Now victims want justice.

USA Today

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.

Nile was among nearly 200 people who have been cleared of charges tied to former Sgt. Ronald Watts and his Chicago Police Department team. It's the largest series of exonerations in the city’s history, said Joshua Tepfer, a lawyer with the University of Chicago Law School’s Exoneration Project, which has represented most of the victims.

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.


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.