Jailed rapper Meek Mill has spoken out from prison, telling Page Six he is a “political prisoner,” a victim of a flawed criminal justice system that keeps black men in jail for crimes they didn’t commit.
In 2008 Meek was convicted on gun and drug charges in Philadelphia, with police claiming he sold crack cocaine to an informant and threatened officers with a gun. He was sentenced by Judge Genece Brinkley to up to 23 months in jail and 10 years probation. Meek served several months in prison, and was released early with parole.
But Meek was arrested in 2017 for “reckless endangerment” for popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York while not wearing a helmet. No charges were filed, but because he was on probation Judge Brinkley sentenced Meek to two to four years in jail.
The harsh sentence over sparked criticism from other artists, including Jay-Z who said “the criminal justice system stalks black people like Meek Mill.” Protests sprung up, and so did the #FreeMeekMill hashtag on social media.
In a huge development, it has been alleged in court papers that Meek’s original conviction was a setup by corrupt cops. Meek’s arresting officer, Reggie Graham, the chief witness against him in court, was a few months ago revealed to be on a secret list kept by the Philly DA of “tainted” cops who had “a history of lying, racial bias, or brutality.”
But Meek still sits in jail, having served five months with an appeal pending, as the outcry about his incarceration grows louder. The Philly DA, the mayor and the governor say Meek should be released on bail, but Judge Brinkley has so far refused.
Speaking via a phone at the State Correctional Institution in Chester, Pennsylvania, Meek told Page Six, “I am a political prisoner. Yes, I’m frustrated there’s no way in a million years I could get a fair trial in front of this judge…Yeah, I am angry, but I am a prisoner of politics – me being in this situation, has brought light to the people who are serving time because of other corrupt cops.”
The rapper explained why he could not have pointed a loaded gun at the cops, “In the middle of a full-blown raid, do you believe that I could point a gun at two officers, when there’s 10 other officers in attendance with firearms in the air?
“Do you believe in America that I could point a gun at two officers and not be killed or at least shot at? They are trained…to shoot into the target and neutralize, that’s why you are seeing young black men who are shot 20 times, 15 times, for reaching for their cellphone in their pocket or running from police.
“Anybody in the world – you don’t even have to be a judge – knows I didn’t point a gun at these cops. I don’t have a reason to point a gun at a police officer, I am not a suicidal person, I never thought about suicide, I don’t want to kill myself. Pointing a gun at a cop is suicide.
“You will never even hear a lyric [from] me talking about killing a cop or shooting at a cop…Everybody knows if you are a black young kid coming up, you know don’t ever lift a firearm at a cop unless you want to die. It’s simple”.
Another officer at Meek’s original arrest has said in a sworn affidavit filed in February this year, “I never saw [Meek] lift his gun and point it,” the rapper instead threw the gun on the ground and Graham later came up with the story. Meek says he was handcuffed, taken inside a nearby house, and brutally beaten by the cops
Meek claims the officers also lied about him having sold crack to an informant, and they never had any evidence to prove it, “They [the officers] are supposed to bring the crack to court as evidence, most of the time they give the informant marked money…I didn’t have any of that in my case, and she [Judge Brinkley] found me guilty on all charges….Now there’s all this evidence coming forward that the cop that testified against me is corrupt, he’s not allowed to testify [again] in the city of Philadelphia.”
Officer Graham retired to Florida in 2017 after 22 years and over 400 arrests. His name was put on the “tainted” list four months after he left the force, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Another officer who worked with Graham on the Narcotics Field Unit said in a sworn affidavit, also signed in February, that they fabricated search warrants, stole property while on those searches, beat people and Graham had boasted to him, “I arrested that rapper boy Meek Mill and whooped his ass.”
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Meek continued on the phone, “Once officers are corrupted, they say it is fruit from a poisonous tree, anything that he ever did is poisonous, and the cases are supposed to be retried or thrown out.. I did not point a gun at police…and they arrested me outside, they handcuffed me, they took me into the house and they beat me up…and when I came out my face was bloody, I had abrasions to my face…my hair pulled out of my head. The way the cops treated me, they were the thugs, they beat me, they lied about it, and they sent me to jail.”
He believes the judge’s unusual interest in his case has kept him a victim of the system. He says her actions include personally turning up to check on him at community service, suggesting a new manager for his music career, inviting him and former girlfriend Nicki Minaj into her chambers and asking him to write a song about her as a judge, and selecting his probation officer so he had no chance of succeeding on parole.
Meek’s lawyer Joe Tacopina has accused Judge Brinkley in court papers of overstepping her role by “essentially acting as a prosecutor…and taking an unusual interest in, and trying to inject herself into Meek’s personal and professional life.” He has filed a motion to have Brinkley removed from Meek’s case.
Meek stated of Brinkley to Page Six, “It is clearly an obsession with me because…anybody should be able to handle my case…the judge hand-picked my probation officer and then I am in trouble every time.”
But Judge Brinkley’s attorney Charles Peruto Jr. has strongly denied she has a “personal vendetta” against Meek. “It’s a ridiculous and outrageous claim” he said, insisting she is just doing her job. “If you don’t want a tough judge, then don’t elect them.”
When asked what it is like to live with the fear of being thrown in jail at any time, Meek explained to Page Six on the phone, “This has been my life so long it was normal….I come from the ghetto where we don’t value life, and going to jail was normal, it was normal to me.
“But now it is not normal, I’m doing time in a state penitentiary right now for a crime I didn’t do when I was 19, I’m 30 years old now. Do you think I pointed a gun at a cop? That’s just as simple as it gets….you would be dead…I was arrested by a dirty strike force….I was locked up by corrupt cops, they think that because I am a celebrity, I’ll find a way around it. No – I want justice.
“The [Philadelphia] District Attorney, Larry Krasner supports me getting bail…he isn’t supporting me getting bail because I’m a rapper, or I’m a black kid, or because I make money, he’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do. He’s familiar with these cops, he’s familiar with their activities….He knows nine times out of 10 these charges would be thrown away. He’s not doing it to look good for Philadelphia, he’s doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Do you believe in America that I could point a gun at two officers and not be killed or at least shot at?
But while longtime civil rights lawyer Krasner – who ran for the office by promising to reform the Philadelphia justice system to get men of color out of jail and out of the parole and probation system – can recommend bail, Judge Brinkley ultimately decides.
Meek – real name Robert Williams – grew up in poverty in North Philly and became a star after releasing his 2012 debut album, “Dreams and Nightmares.” But he says his fame doesn’t make him different, “There’s many other men in this situation, their lives need to be saved too, they’re kidnapped from their families, locked up in a concrete and metal facility, over crimes they most likely didn’t commit
“Every day that goes by I am losing [time with] my family, I am losing millions of dollars, I am wasting time in prison on a case they know they might overturn, but [I’m told] it’s a process, it takes time, they know I can’t be treated special.”
Of his cramped jail cell, Meek explained, “This is inhumane…with my hands and my feet I can touch both sides of my cell. I am living on a thin mat on a metal slab, I’m eating food that is not healthy, it’s dirty, this is not a place for a human being.
“Most of the time people say famous people get treated good, but famous people [also] go through the worst stuff…I don’t want special treatment…My lawyer said that if this was anybody else, 100 percent they would be out of prison, but added to that you are a celebrity, its a little different. He’s still confident the Supreme Court will do the right thing [and overturn the original conviction].”
However, Meek is mostly fearful that his 6-year-old son Papi, who lives with his mother in New Jersey, is suffering because of his struggle, “I’ve always been humble and I know God has a plan for me. I’m wasting time in here, I read, I learn, but I’m wasting time. I’ve got a 6-year-old son who has never been suspended from school and in the five months I’ve spent in jail, my son has been suspended from school. My son uses YouTube and he sees his dad is in prison, so he thinks that’s the right thing to do – be bad.
“I’m not there to support my son – if I’m not there to support my son, I’m wasting time as a man. He can visit me, but you only get visits once a week here, and I don’t even want to make my son get used to this type of way of living, statistically when a black man goes to jail, his son has an 80 percent chance of going to jail after him – statistically.
“I don’t want to introduce my son into this life…he’s been doing good. I’ve been getting restless since I’ve been in prison because I’ve not been able to be in contact and care for my son in a way I should be able to.”
The next Meek hearing is on Monday with Judge Brinkley, and it is not clear if any significant progress will be made toward his release. He was last week visited by billionaire sports team owners Robert Kraft and Michael Rubin, a longtime friend of the rapper who has been a force in the fight to get him freed.
Comic Kevin Hart, also an old friend of Meek, posted on Instagram Friday, “After talking to Meek today I know that he is destined for great things to come. He’s been thru a lot…He is so focused on telling his story and making sure the youth that’s coming up under him doesn’t have to go thru the same thing..Stay strong Meek. Keep your head up.”
Meek added to Page Six – as a metallic voice on the prison phone system punctuated the call to announce he had less than a minute left – he’s focusing on the day he will finally be free, when he will bring attention to the cases of others stuck in jail or trapped in the cycle of a failed system. “I will come back and help save people and help make the world a better place,” Meek said, as the call cut off.
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