Meek Mill’s Sentencing Draws Sharp Criticism Of The U.S. Parole System : NPR


Meek Mill performs throughout V-103 Live Pop Up Concert at Philips Arena on March 25, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The rapper was lately sentenced to return to jail for probation violations.

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Meek Mill performs throughout V-103 Live Pop Up Concert at Philips Arena on March 25, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The rapper was lately sentenced to return to jail for probation violations.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

This previous Monday night, tons of of supporters confirmed up exterior Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center to protest a ruling that despatched rapper Meek Mill again to jail over violations of his probation. There was signage, chanting and hashtags (#FreeMeek and #RallyForMeek) related to the demonstration in hopes of getting the occasion trending on-line. Member station WHYY coated the rally, reporting that the group included activists, athletes and rappers campaigning for Meek’s pardoning and, extra extensively, reforms of the legal justice system that they are saying are guilty for the perceived severity of his sentence. Meek’s Maybach Music Group label boss, Rick Ross, made a speech in the midst of the group and at one level, tons of recited considered one of Meek’s most well-known songs, the triumphant “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)” off his debut studio album — they did not miss a beat on the track’s tempo swap.

It’s now been over every week since Meek Mill, born Robert Rahmeek Williams, was sentenced to between two and 4 years in jail for violating his probation within the state of Pennsylvania. Meek’s sentence, a call handed down by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley, has been met with outrage from the music neighborhood and past; a petition in badist of pardoning the rapper has drawn over 300,000 signatures, and large names have come to bat for the Philadelphia-born artist. Jay-Z, who’s often stoic on the on a regular basis happenings of the rap recreation, spoke out in favor of Meek, calling the choose’s choice “unjust and heavy-handed.” Colin Kaepernick wrote on Instagram that Mill is a “victim of systemic oppression.”

At a time when audiences leap from one superstar drama to the subsequent, Meek’s case has held consideration as a result of its particulars appear extra far-fetched with each pbading day.

Meek’s New York-based protection lawyer, Joe Tacopina, has been vocal about his opinion of Judge Brinkley’s choice, in addition to the choose’s character. In an interview with Billboard, Tacopina cited that each Meek’s probation officer and the district lawyer on the case had really useful no incarceration, however that Judge Brinkley overrode them, which he took as a sign of her having a “personal vendetta” towards the rapper.

In that interview, Tacopina additionally claimed that Judge Brinkley had requested Meek put her title in a track, in addition to hearth Roc Nation as his administration firm. NPR has made a number of requests for an interview with Tacopina and documentation of these claims which weren’t returned.

At 19 years previous, Mill was arrested for carrying a firearm and not using a license and possession of medicine, in keeping with the courtroom docket in his case, which works again to 2007. Judge Genece Brinkley started presiding over Mill’s case at the moment, sentencing the rapper to 11-23 months in jail. Mill was launched in early 2009 for good habits, and given a seven-year probation interval by Brinkley. Within that interval, Meek did not report his journey plans to the choose a number of instances, leading to extra jail time in 2014 and 90 days of home arrest in 2016. Along with the home arrest sentence, Brinkley gave Meek six extra years of probation.

Meek then had two extra run-ins with the legislation earlier this yr — a scuffle at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in March and driving a mud bike in Harlem in August — and despite the fact that each costs had been subsequently dropped, they had been violations of probation, and the obvious closing straws for Brinkley.

“I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court,” Brinkley stated throughout Mill’s sentencing on Nov. 7.

Kevin Harden Jr., a private harm lawyer at Ross Feller Casey, is a former prosecutor for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s workplace, having spent 4 years as an badistant district lawyer there. Harden by no means labored in any capability on Meek’s case, however was in courtroom for a few of Meek’s appearances earlier than Judge Brinkley previously.

“I’ve seen them interact in court professionally,” Harden tells NPR. “Judge Brinkley is personable, and I would hate for an attorney to characterize her personality, which is very motherly and caring, as some sort of impropriety.”

On Nov. 14, Meek’s authorized workforce filed paperwork to request the recusal of Judge Brinkley. The request baderts that the choose had expressed herself in “personal, injudicious terms” many instances in courtroom and in chambers. The paperwork additionally cites, as Tacopina instructed the media, Brinkley’s alleged track request and recommendation to drop Roc Nation as causes for recusal.

“At the conclusion of the February 5, 2016, hearing Judge Brinkley invited the defendant and his then-girlfriend (Onika Maraj, p/k/a Nicki Minaj, also a prominent musical performer) into chambers, without counsel, for a conversation that was not recorded,” reads the movement.

A breakdown of Brinkley’s sentencing file performed by the Philadelphia Inquirer exhibits that her choice on Meek final week was not an aberrant one within the context of her judicial historical past. Brinkley, who has 24 years of expertise as a metropolis choose, sentenced seven males within the final 4 years to return to jail after violating probation or parole restrictions, selections that had been, “every time,” because the Inquirer writes, upheld by a better courtroom.

Rather than specializing in Brinkley, Harden suggests Meek’s case is indicative of a pernicious sample within the Pennsylvania probationary system itself.

“The problem with Pennsylvania’s laws are that they allow probation to exist in perpetuity,” explains Harden. “You can be on probation forever in Pennsylvania because you don’t get time served for being on probation — that’s where it’s really egregious.”

Meek’s superstar has not solely drawn consideration to Pennsylvania’s judicial system, but in addition to one of many causes of elevated incarceration charges across the nation. There are four.65 million folks within the U.S. at present on parole or underneath probation; the Department of Justice reported in a 2015 research that Pennsylvania had the ninth-highest inhabitants of individuals on probation within the nation.

I believe this is a chance for us to have a a lot bigger dialog round how damaged the legal justice system is and the truth that people who find themselves on parole and probation, like Meek, have very lengthy probation phrases and are nonetheless not free — they’re nonetheless mainly incarcerated, says Jessica Jackson, the nationwide director and co-founder of reduce50, one of many organizers of Monday night time’s rally. “As devastating as it is to Meek and his family and his loved ones and his supporters, this has also been an opportunity to really talk about the larger systemic issues and shine a light on what thousands and thousands, really 4.65 million people who are on parole and probation, are struggling with every day.”

Though political commentator and reduce50 co-founder Van Jones believes Meek’s state of affairs is a part of a systemic subject, he additionally thinks Judge Brinkley ought to step down for the enchantment course of.

I believe it is each. You know you possibly can have a systemic downside after which you possibly can have somebody who’s making acutely unhealthy selections by way of how she is utilizing her energy,” Jones says. “If no other judge in the city or the state agrees that popping a wheelie, getting off drugs and breaking up fight is cause for him to go to prison, I don’t think that this one judge’s eccentric view should ruin Meek Mill’s life,” he added, referring to a video shoot and a prescription drug habit Mill reportedly picked up after a dental operation, in keeping with remarks Jones made throughout an look on The Wendy Williams Show.

As an increasing number of voices be a part of the dialog, Meek stays at Camp Hill Prison.

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