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Meek Mill’s Incarceration & the Failures of the American Justice System

Rapper Meek Mill, real name Robert Rihmeek Williams, famous for songs including “Dreams and Nightmares” and chart-topping hits such as “Young & Gettin’ It,” is currently serving a two to four year prison sentence for violating his parole.

The circumstances of Mill’s arrest and conviction have led many to wonder if Williams is paying for his alleged crimes or if the criminal justice system is attempting to make an example of him, demonstrating the control that the courts and law enforcement possess over poor communities of color in the United States.

Meek Mill arrested for riding a dirt bike

Williams is alleged to have violated his parole by riding a dirt bike while filming a music video in New York City. He was charged with reckless driving. He was not arrested while riding the dirt bike even though New York City police officers are alleged to have been present at the time of the incident; Williams wasn’t even issued a traffic citation.

However, when footage of Williams riding the dirt bike surfaced on social media platforms, authorities seemingly tried to make an example of Williams, using the footage as grounds for arresting him and later sentencing him to two to four years in prison.

At Williams’ hearing the prosecuting attorney and the probation officer both requested no jail for the probation violation but the judge disagreed and handed down the two to four year sentence.

Accusations of bias surround judge in Meek Mill’s case

In a bizarre twist to the story, the judge in charge of Williams’ case, Genece E. Brinkley, has shown “an inappropriate personal interest” in the case, as quoted by Williams’ attorney, Joe Tacopina. Judge Brinkley is alleged to have exhibited this inappropriate interest in a number of bizarre ways, including asking Williams to leave his record label, Roc Nation, to sign with a record label owned by one of her associates, as well as stalking Williams while he served food to homeless individuals as part of a community outreach program he is involved in.

In response to the number of allegations of inappropriate behavior on her part, Judge Brinkley has retained the services of prominent Philadelphia lawyer A. Charles Peruto, Jr., who was also originally under consideration to be a member of Williams’ legal team and visited the rapper in prison.

I spoke with Peruto, who stated that he has “collected various articles that have been 100% false” in regards to Brinkley’s behavior, and should the judge decide to take legal action, he’s “already singled out target defendants and articles.”

Peruto also indicated that there is no credence to claims regarding Brinkley’s “stalkerish behavior,” and said that “she has done nothing more and nothing less in this case than in many others.” He also stated that no witnesses have come forward to confirm any rumors that Brinkley asked Williams to record a song for her, or anything to that effect; he suspects that all of these rumors may have been started by people in “Meek Mill’s propaganda team.”

Peruto emphasized throughout the interview that Williams is not the one responsible for the negative press against Brinkley, but rather that “a few people in Meek Mill’s corner are the ones stirring the pot.”

Whether these claims are true or simply unsubstantiated rumors, a fact that cannot be denied is that Brinkley has extended Williams’ probation multiple times since his original arrest in 2008 and subsequent eight-month incarceration.

“The Probation Trap”

Williams was placed on probation for a period of five years after his first release from prison. During this time period, Williams supports claim the justice system continued to unjustly target Williams and made it difficult for him to perform and tour outside of Philadelphia.

Many claim the Williams case is the most visible example of what some experts call “the probation trap” of the American criminal justice system, which is maliciously designed to trap young men like Williams and keep them under constant government supervision.

At the recent Reform Philly press conference, Williams’ mother, Kathy Williams, struggled to speak through tears as she discussed the toll that this decade-long legal battle has taken on her, both as a mother and a grandmother. She told audience members how her grandson “cries every day,” illustrating the devastating toll that the penal system enacts not only on convicted offenders but also on their innocent family members.

Critics argue the Meek Mill case shows how much power one judge can have in a legal case and how the complicated system of probation and parole allows the criminal justice system to exercise undue control over convicted offenders’ lives long after they have paid their debt to society.

Tacopina stated that in his over 25 years of experience in the legal system as an attorney and prosecutor, he has “never seen an instance where the prosecuting attorney and the probation officer both requested no jail for a probation violation only to have the judge tell them that they didn’t know what they were talking about.”

Tacopina also added that “from what I’ve been told by local attorneys, Meek’s case is just the tip of the iceberg,” providing insight to the grim truth that this legal nightmare is not just a fact of Williams’ life, but the dark reality of the lives of many young men of color in Philadelphia and throughout the United States.

Meek Mill supported by PA Governor

Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, released a statement on Friday showing support for the release of Williams.

“I support D.A. Larry Krasner’s position in the case of Robert Williams (Meek Mill),” Wolf tweeted Friday. “Our criminal justice system is in need of repair. That’s why my admin has made efforts to invest in programs that divert individuals from the system, improve public safety, and promote fairness.”

Williams emerged from the unforgiving streets of Philadelphia, overcoming poverty, police brutality and the challenge of being a young black man in America.  He went to become one of the most successful entertainers and musicians of this decade, but in the eyes of the law he is a serial probation violator. Or is Meek Mill a public example of a justice system designed to trap and oppress young black lives?

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