Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill will be confined to his house, and won’t be able to release any music all spring and possibly longer, Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley ruled Friday.
The judge’s decision followed Mill’s attorney, Frank DeSimone, arguing that incarceration would “decapitate” his client’s career. Upon release, DeSimone said, Mill could end up jobless and on the streets.
Assistant District Attorney Noel Ann DeSantis countered that, since the case started, Mill has acted with the mindset that “the rules don’t apply to me.” Given his penchant for breaking rules, he has “zero credibility,” she said.
“We have a right to be upset,” DeSantis said. “We have, in a way, been played.”
The entertainer’s advocates see the ruling as merciful. Mill, whose legal name is Robert Williams, must serve 90 days on house arrest starting on March 1, and will be on probation for six years after that. In December, Brinkley threatened to send Mill to state prison for his persistent violations of her orders.
After Mill’s three-month house arrest, during which he’ll be wearing an ankle monitor, he’ll face Brinkley again to see if he is allowed to release music, tour and have fewer restrictions around his travel.
On four separate occasions, Mill, 28, violated the terms of his probation from a 2008 firearms and drug conviction. He served eight months in prison before beginning five years’ of probation in 2009.
After violating the terms of that probation, he was sent to prison for five months in 2013.
The most recent violation was triggered when he failed to have his travel schedule approved by the court, something his defense attorneys have chalked up to the chaos of the music business. Prosecutors also allege that he submitted cold water for a drug test on one occasion.
Because he’s passed dozens of other drug screenings in recent years, though, shows that he’s getting on the straight and narrow path, his attorneys say.
Brinkley said Mill will be permitted to do community service work, such as volunteering with groups that work with Philadelphia’s homeless, while on house arrest. Otherwise, he can’t leave without court approval.
Where exactly he’ll be staying during his domestic confinement is not settled. Mill’s girlfriend, Nicki Minaj, attended Friday’s hearing but did not testify.
Brinkley said that she has “bent over backwards” in order for Mill to grow his career, but the entertainer has returned only contempt.
Appearing regretful, Mill told the judge that, early in his career, he was blinded by money, success and his ego. Yet after taking a hard look at his decisions lately, he says he wants to prove that he can redeem himself.
Brinkley conceded that he has indeed shown progress lately, and that played into the decision to impose a relatively lenient sentence.
Many of Mill’s advocates attested to his ability to make a turnaround, and he’s shown better relations and more contact with his probation officer.
“I’m observing a completely different man,” said life coach Dyana Williams, who has worked with other entertainers who’ve veered off path, including T.I. and Taaz The Greatest. “I don’t want to see another man, another person, go to jail.”
Williams vowed to stay on Mill’s case and talk to him “around the clock” about following the judge’s mandates.
“I can’t do that alone. A person has to be willing. I’m not the Wizard of Oz,” Williams said. “Has he made mistakes and misjudgments? Obviously, he has.”
Philadelphia R&B legend Kenny Gamble, who also spoke at Mill’s last hearing saying the rapper is the voice of the voiceless, told Brinkley on Friday that he won’t have Mill’s back if there’s another slip up.
“I don’t want to be involved with anything unless it’s for real,” Gamble said. “I’m not coming back here again.”
Since his last hearing on probation violations, Mill has visited more than 25 organizations, Diana Diaz, managing director of philanthropy at Roc Nation, testified. Those events included handing out hoagies to the homeless at LOVE Park; participating in arts and crafts at the Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center; and volunteering at a homeless shelter for youth.
Mill has also made appearances at area schools, including a pass through Boys’ Latin charter school a day before his sentencing hearing. But Brinkley frowned upon this and other events centered around youth, saying that kind of audience will only glorify his hip-hop fame. Brinkley ordered that the community service he undertakes during his house arrest be for the benefit of the city’s homeless, elderly and veterans.
Mill, a high school dropout who earned GED diploma, also said he’d like to pursue a college degree. The for-profit online university Full Sail was mentioned as one possibility.
On the stand, Mill said, “I’m not perfect. I’ve never been perfect,” but “I’m a changing man.”
He pleaded with Brinkley to not throw him behind bars so he “can be the bright star you want me to be.”
Brinkley acknowledged she was confronted with a tricky proposition, balancing respect to the law with Mill’s recent progress and the community support he’s mustered.
But, in the end, she said she’s not sure that Mill has so far demonstrated that he’s changed, so his life will continue to be closely monitored by the court. And his probationary status will be re-evaluated again at the conclusion of the 90-day house arrest in June.
Mill, who is represented by Roc Nation, owned by Jay-Z, had his first No. 1 album with “Dreams With More Than Money” on the Billboard 200 chart this summer, selling 246,000 albums when it was released.
At the end of the hearing, Brinkley asked that Mill and Minaj come back to the judge’s quarters for a private conversation.
“This could’ve been over long ago,” Brinkley said before consulting with the couple behind closed doors.