Photo via Meek Mill/ YouTube
Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill was released from prison yesterday, after a ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court cast doubt on the credibility of the Philadelphia police officer who originally arrested the embattled musician ten years ago. Per the high court’s ruling, Meek was awarded bail on Tuesday afternoon and immediately freed from detention.
Meek, whose legal name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was arrested in 2008 on gun possession and drug dealing charges after returning from a local grocery store to his cousin’s South Philly home. But despite being released eight months later and kickstarting one of the most successful rap careers of the last decade, Meek has been on probation for the better part of the last decade, being sent back to prison by local Judge Genece E. Brinkley multiple times.
The latest prison stint, which ended abruptly yesterday, was the result of a dirt bike wheelie caught on social media while Meek was shooting a music video in New York City last year. Despite pleas from the Governor of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s newly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner, a number of public protests, and more high-profile celebrities and billionaires than you can count on both hands, Judge Brinkley’s probation violation stood. In past months, public focus on Meek’s case intensified, with a number of prominent activists and journalists pointing to the rapper’s trials and tribulations as endemic of America’s penchant for unjustly incarcerating young black men.
In a March article for Rolling Stone, Paul Solotaroff examined Meek’s entire history with the Pennsylvania court system, and uncovered troubling truths about both the police officers who performed the original 2008 arrest and Judge Brinkley, who made sure that the conviction carried on long past his original sentence, no matter how high the Philly rapper’s public star rose.
"She's a sadist," an anonymous Philadelphia attorney told Solotaroff about Judge Brinkley’s history with probationers. "She puts long-tail probations on young black men, then jerks them back to jail for small infractions."
Also included in Solotaroff’s Rolling Stone piece is the story of former Philadelphia narcotics officer Reggie Graham, who was integral in Meek’s original 2008 arrest. According to numerous reports, Graham and the cops he ran with were notorious for robbing Philly residents and trumping up non-existent charges as a way to steal drugs, money, and other personal property. While Meek admitted during the decade-old trial that he had been carrying an unlicensed gun on the day of his arrest, the official reasoning given by officer Graham for the South Philly narcotics bust has been called into question numerous times, and been all but proven false.
“In Philly, illegal carry is a misdemeanor, typically punished with a fine and house arrest,” Solotaroff wrote last month. “Instead, [Meek] got two years in a county prison and eight years of strict probation — all because Graham swore he'd seen him sell drugs and aim a weapon at cops.”
But after ten years either locked up or under the watchful eye of police, prosecutors, and Judge Brinkley, it was Graham’s inconsistent story that finally freed Meek Mill on Tuesday. Spurred by Graham’s appearance on the Philadelphia District Attorney’s list of cops who could not be trusted to testify in court and a hearing last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with Meek’s lawyers, and granted the rapper bail while his original case is re-examined.
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As soon as that order was handed down, Meek posted bail and was released from a prison facility in Chester, Pennsylvania, at which point he immediately boarded a private helicopter and flew back to the City of Brotherly Love, where he received a king’s welcome at Tuesday night’s NBA playoff game between the Philadelphia 76ers and visiting Miami Heat. With a pregame appearance to raucous applause and courtside seats next to Sixers owner Michael Rubin and comedian Kevin Hart, Meek watched as his hometown team sealed a series-clinching victory.
Still though, while Meek is now a free man with the support of Pennsylvania’s highest court, the platinum rapper was quick to note that his case is unique, and that there are tens of thousands of other victims of state bias still rotting in prison. With his newfound freedom, Meek took to social media and vowed to stand up for those still incarcerated, and to continue the fight against racially-charged systemic oppression.
“Although I’m blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues,” Meek said in a statement upon his release. “In the meantime, I plan to work closely with my legal team to overturn this unwarranted conviction and look forward to reuniting with my family and resuming my music career.”