Why Meek Mill's jail time should have been avoidable

By Chris Wilder
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Jul. 16, 2014

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Meek Mill, photographed by Randy Miramontez during the 2012 Rick Ross MMG Tour.

Hopefully, you didn’t run out and spend your last money on tickets to see Meek Mill’s “Homecoming” concert at The Liacouras Center this Saturday. If you did, you may be in there by yourself.

Last week, Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley revoked the rapper’s probation and sentenced him to three to six months in prison for violations going back over the course of at least two years. In court, Brinkley told Mill’s attorney, Gary Silver, that she felt as though he was “thumbing his nose at me” since she had been “trying to help him move his career forward.”

The issues at hand: Mill had not been keeping regular contact with his probation officer, Treas Underwood, while on the road. In fact, Underwood didn’t even have a current phone number for the Maybach Music Group artist, who travels extensively as part of his rap career. In addition, Assistant District Attorney Noel DeSantis produced a picture of Meek Mill posing with four men holding a semi-automatic pistol—which Silver claimed was a prop for a photo shoot—as well as some disparaging Tweets from the rapper that called the ADA racist and the probation officer jealous that one of her clients—whom she’d known since their younger days in the same North Philly neighborhood—had become famous and wealthy.

It wasn’t until Brinkley learned during Friday’s four-hour hearing that Mill had booked a string of shows between last Thursday and Aug. 11—a period that the judge had explicitly ordered him to keep clear on his schedule so his probation issues could be resolved—that she decided to send him off to jail.

He and his lawyer explained that his expenses are anywhere from $80,000 to $90,000 a month and that his career supports him, his son, his mother and sister: “This will be extremely damaging to my life,” Mill said. 

But the judge wasn’t having any of it. Said Brinkley, after referring to his nearly two years worth of contentious court hearings and probation infractions: “You just don’t get it.”

* * *

Meek Mill was born Robert Rahmeek Williams in 1987 and was raised by his single mother in North and South Philly. His father was killed by gunfire when Mill was just five years old, but he spent a lot of time with his uncle, Philadelphia hip-hop legend DJ Grandmaster Nell, his father’s younger brother. With Nell spinning all the time, Mill was exposed to hip-hop early and often and began writing rhymes and even studying other rappers’ flows at a very young age. Officially, he began rhyming seriously at 16, but was only 12 when he jumped into his very first rap battle on a North Philly corner. He lost, but vowed to come back. Through tears, Mill proclaimed, “I’m gonna be nice one day.”

And he was right.

Many battles (and victories) later, in 2006, he released his first mixtape, The Real Me. Mill, then 19, eventually got noticed by Charlie Mack (of “First out the Limo” fame), president of Aphillyated Records. Mack introduced him to Atlanta rapper T.I., who flew the emcee out to L.A. to try to secure a recording contract. Mill was eventually offered deals from Warner Brothers and T.I.’s own imprint, Grand Hustle Records. He chose Grand Hustle, but that deal never materialized—‘cause Mill was sentenced to prison during the process.

In 2008, Mill was arrested by undercover cops in South Philly coming out of his apartment with a gun in his possession and drugs nearby. He was convicted of drug dealing and gun possession and sentenced to 11 to 23 months in prison. However, with a new lawyer, his sentence was reduced, and he was released in early 2009 under a five-year parole agreement after serving just eight months. He skated along, putting out around two mixtapes a year, eventually getting a record deal with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. And then the trouble began.

He was reprimanded by Brinkley in a December 2012 probation hearing because he failed her court’s order a month earlier to stop scheduling performances to allow for a reinstatement of his travel permit. In May of 2013, he was brought back before Brinkley because once his travel permit was reinstated, Mill failed to report his travel plans to his probation officer, as stipulated in his probation agreement—and after his social-media posts about Underwood and DeSantis, some of his supporters threatened both women. As a result, Mill was ordered by Brinkley to take etiquette classes, which the judge said were “more important than any concerts he may have.” She gave him until Aug. 4 to complete them. Meek couldn’t just stop there, though: In a June hearing last year, the court was upset that he still hadn’t scheduled the court-mandated etiquette classes and was still not reporting his travel schedule.

Honestly, there is no real excuse for this kind of behavior. A simple thing like reporting the locations of one’s shows and appearances ahead of time can’t be that difficult, yet it appears to be the basis for all of Mill’s other violations. It’s not as though anyone was denying him the right to book dates out of their jurisdiction; the court was fully aware—and seemingly supportive—of the strides he was making as a rapper. They know that entertaining’s a job that requires you to travel. And the court wants you to work. How hard could it have been for Mill to call down there and let Underwood know what’s up? It’s no secret that probation officers need to know where their charges are at all times, especially if they’re located outside a designated area. Meek Mill’s no stranger to the system, so he knew that. And frankly, he had it easy. Like my father would say, he’s simply being hard-headed.

Most of the time, guys get out of jail and violate probation out of necessity—not that it’s right or excusable—because they have no other source of income and need to eat, live, and probably clothe a child or two, so they return to the streets, back to the crimes that lead to their incarceration in the first place. Meek Mill does not have to do that. He earns more money than most people in America, and he does it legally. Shouldn’t he value that? Shouldn’t he want to protect that?

Heaven knows there are plenty of examples he’s had to learn from right here in Philadelphia, where numerous rap artists have gone to jail.


Cool C is currently on death row for the 1996 murder of a Philadelphia police officer during a bank robbery. Why he and another former Philly hip-hop great, Steady B—who’s serving a life sentence for the same crime—were robbing banks in the first place is a mystery, but their criminal career culminated in the first murder of a female Philadelphia police officer. That’s probably not the way they’d planned to make history.

West Oak Lane’s Cassidy, who has made records with R. Kelly and even had a part in the movie Next Day Air, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 11 to 23 months in prison. Mill should know Cassidy’s story well, since they had an ongoing rap beef for the better part of two years. Their beef never left the recording studio, thankfully, and both claimed that it was all just part of hip-hop.

Brooklyn’s Junior Mafia princess Lil Kim may not be from Philly, but all of hip-hop remembers that she served federal time for three counts of perjury and one count of conspiracy, right downtown on 7th and Arch. That’s pretty close to home.

Another rapper with a cautionary tale Meek should’ve memorized is that of South Philly’s own Beanie Sigel. Beans has been to jail for various drug and weapons charges over the years and is currently serving federal time for failure to pay nearly $348,000 in taxes. Last March, while in prison, he was sentenced in Delaware County to six to 23 months on drug charges stemming from an August 2012 arrest on I-95. On July 31 of last year, Mill posted a pic of Beanie and some other inmates on his Instagram account and wrote, “Free b-Mac #philly #standtall ain’t to many other rappers I respect from here nigga made a ‘real lane for Philly.’” So, no: He can’t say he didn’t know how easily the Broad Street Bully landed in jail and continued to accrue charges.

Then, of course, there’s T.I.

T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, looked out for Mill and offered him a deal with his label, so when Harris was arrested on gun charges and served seven months before being released—then returned after violating his parole when he failed a drug test—you’d think the younger rapper would take notes and learn accordingly. But, like the brand-new Jazmine Sullivan single he guests on, Meek’s situation is just “Dumb.”

Looking at his violations overall, nothing really seems like that big of a deal. So what, he didn’t tell his probation officer about his travel plans? He’s a famous artist; it’s not like he can go on the run, since everyone knows who he is and what he looks like. And why would he? He is in the midst of a lucrative rap career. So what, he insulted the ADA and his probation officer on Twitter. Was sparing their feelings a term of his probation? He called one racist and the other jealous. If calling someone names is a jailable offense, you’d have to lock everybody up.

That’s the thinking that launched the #FreeMeekMill hashtag on Twitter, where fans of the 27-year-old rapper have taken to call for his release. People don’t seem to understand what he did, not realizing that the problem is what he didn’t do. He didn’t follow a judge’s orders. He didn’t call his probation officer. And most importantly, he didn’t respect the court. And the court doesn’t play.

So, on Saturday while scores of Meek Mill supporters are up in arms decrying how it’s way too easy for “the system” to target and incarcerate people, especially Black men, hopefully they won’t be missing the also-undeniable fact that his is a case where it was easy—way too easy, in fact—for him to have remained free. 

 

Chris Wilder last wrote about Kindred the Family Soul’s Fatin Dantzler for PW. Follow him on Twitter @CeeWild.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. Anonymous said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 03:00PM

“Maybe he didn't keep on contact with his probation officer because probation is a fucking joke and so is the American legal system. "We want your money, you have to do what we say so we can get big fat paychecks which we will spend on the same drugs you do, but since we are the law, it doesn't apply to us!"”

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2. anonymous said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 04:17PM

“Very well written article....and soooo true! It's still the old addage, "You can't fight City Hall".”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 08:22PM

“The court and judge was waayyyy to lenient. Mill will continue to diss until he burns out.

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4. Cooly J said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 08:24PM

“What he couldn't do, and should have aimed to do, is walk into court with his head high and been able to tell the judge that he has done X, Y & Zright. I have been in her courtroom several times, including having the misfortune of sitting through one of his hearings, and it's completely handled the wrong way. Judge Brinkley is fair and even handed, but if you push her she will push back.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:21PM

“what up Wildstyle????
its easy to believe Meek's side of the story that the system is intentionally holding him back. But he should know enough to make an effort to play along- go through the motions to beat the system.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 12:21PM

“what up Wildstyle????
its easy to believe Meek's side of the story that the system is intentionally holding him back. But he should know enough to make an effort to play along- go through the motions to beat the system.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 01:45PM

“When you are black, famous, rich and from the streets, you can't let your right hand know what the left hand is doing.....get it dummies?!?!”

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8. Anonymous said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 01:46PM

“Or end up like all of the rappers above, or moreover, like: 2pac and B.I.G

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9. KRZ..TACONY CRIME FAMILY said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 03:25PM

“I think meek thought he was gonna get a break cause of how much hes blown up but the courts dont give a damn were just a number now hes on state road eatin trash sweatin his nuts off. You cant give them a window to hurt you you gotta play by their rules till you get off their supervision”

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10. Amber Rouse said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 05:04PM

“I THINK HE IS A BUSY MAN AND HAS ALOT TO DO IN HIS CAREER AND THEY NEED TO FUCKN UNDERSTAND HE HAS A CAREER A JOB JUST LIKE THEM HE AINT DOING SHIT WRONG SO THEY NEED TO BE FAIR AND GIVE HIM SOME SPACE AND GET OFF HIS DAMN BACK!!!”

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11. #freeMeekMill said... on Jul 17, 2014 at 08:47PM

“#freeMeekMill. The justice. Is so wrong you have killers walking around the streets WTF. She would of love if he would of been selling drugs or God knows what in Philly but since he came home and did something with his life she wants to mess his career up by putting him back in the system. #FreeMeekmill”

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12. bullconner said... on Jul 18, 2014 at 04:51AM

“Because he is black. If he were white we wouldn't be reading this. Its all the white man's fault and the racist system. Hang him by his neck and light him on fire!”

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13. Anonymous said... on Jul 18, 2014 at 05:33PM

“Quiet is as kept, Mill never had to see Judge Brinkley again subsequent to his conviction and imposed conditions. All he had to do was comply with his court stipulations as well as with the rules and regulations of the probation department which by the way, does not require a high level of intelligence. Let's face it, Mill is the author and creator of this tune (all of this drama was preventable). Recently retired PO.”

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14. C.C said... on Jul 19, 2014 at 03:02PM

“My man, ur opinion is a little to strong. "How hard is it to call?" Well, I had Underwood and Desantis in my case. Resulted in 3 felonies. These two are the girls in the cafeteria u avoid. Absolute simpletons. It is extremely difficult to get in touch with a probation officer. I had 3. They're overworked. 1501 Arch at 9 am during the week is a nightmare. Underwood commented on my "white sneaker" "south Philly ma ma's boy" constantly baiting me. She won. Jailed me. VIOLATED. Go to the bluing interview a Meek rep before or anyone in the system before u claim how easy it is to comply. Ask someone about the urine test. Didn't have a drug case, but yet.......on top of that bullshit I was charged $38/mo for their supervision.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Jul 20, 2014 at 09:54PM

“Regardless of this case, everyone knows that African Americans are targeted by the so-called criminal justice system, especially successful ones. What is astonishing is that even today nothing can be done -- 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.”

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16. Dime B said... on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:52PM

“I am not a Meek Mill fan, way to old . But, I am concerned about a few details in this mans journey through the CJS. First the P/O should have been removed and replaced . The fact that they new each other from the same hood is a red flag that the Judge should have looked into more . And because of that very fact , it clouds the Judges intentions thru out the rest of this case/ process. Second , unless this defendant actually commuted a crime, there was really know inside/industry reason to take away this mans freedom. Whe the Gun photo op was at worst unwise, pretty sure the Judge new that it was just that. As for the Facebook stuff, again , that goes back to the P/O and the fact that she should have been replaced . What did Judge think woe happen !”

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