Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley is exasperated with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill. She’s given him chances, she’s taken him for his word, but in return, Mill’s hasn’t shown her a shred of respect.
That’s what Brinkley said Thursday before she found that Mill broke the terms of his probation, which she said represents the fourth violation.
There’s a chance that Mill will land behind bars, she said, when he returns to court for sentencing Feb. 5.
“He’s been doing this the entire time. Not following the instructions,” Brinkley said.
Brinkley asked Mill to report to court every 60 days to have his travel approved, which Brinkley said was a lenient check-in schedule. Mill, however, failed to follow.
“Who gets to do that? It still didn’t work,” Brinkley said.
He also submitted a urine sample that turned out to be cold water, though Mill denies tampering with it.
Together, the behavior constitutes a probation violation, the judge said.
At the same time, Mill’s new defense attorney, Frank DeSimone, pointed out that that he has passed 66 urine tests since he’s been serving his sentence.
DeSimone said the music business is chaotic and unpredictable sometimes, making it tricky to get his client’s travel approved by the court.
“He’s not a lawyer. He’s not a person who knows how to keep schedules,” DeSimone said. “He’s an artist. And he’s creative. Those people are notoriously slipshod.”
The probation is connected to a 2007 arrest in which Mill, who’s legal name is Robert Williams, was charged and convicted of carrying a gun without a license and other charges. In 2009, he was sentenced to about a year in county prison, but he was released on parole after five months.
He could have received five to 10 years in prison, Brinkley said.
Mill appeared contrite while addressing Brinkley when he took the stand, saying the judge changed his life. If she didn’t give him a chance, Mill said, “I probably wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Before this case started, Mill, 28, said he was on a destructive path. “This became a checkpoint in my life where it always made me make better decisions as a man,” he said. “I believe I have a lot of growing to do. I can continue to be great if you continue to give me a chance.”
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.
‘Voice to the voiceless’
On Thursday, Mill packed the courtroom with supporters, including his girlfriend and hip-hop star Nicki Minaj. She didn’t testify on Thursday, but at a previous hearing Minaj said she’s been working hard to keep Mill on the straight and narrow
During his testimony, Mill said he’s been doing the right thing in dicey social situations lately.
“I’ve been in situations where, I hang in clubs, people from the hood, the streets, where people are not about the same things as me. I make decisions every day where I have to walk away,” Mill said.
Mill, who said he dropped out of Strawberry Mansion High School in 10th grade but later got his GED, said he never had male role models growing up.
“I never had any men sit down with me and have conversations with these types of things,” Mill said.
And because of that, his recent dinner with Philadelphia R&B legend Kenny Gamble was eye opening, he said.
Called as a character witness by DeSimone, Gamble said he realized that Mill is willing to help some Philadelphia communities. Among them, Mill’s native North Philly.
“He’s the voice to the voiceless, and they listen to him,” Gamble said. “Our arms are open wide to brother Meek.”
What’s been Gamble’s impression of Mill for the short time he’s known him? “He’s humble. He’s got this right name, Meek,” Gamble said.
Diana Diaz, managing director of philanthropy at Roc Nation, testified that she’s now preparing charitable events for Mill over the next year. She said the projects could include helping install a mural, perhaps at his high school alma mater, Strawberry Mansion. Another proposal was to have Mill talk to inmates in transition. Diaz said Mill could also clean up trash on Earth Day.
Running low on chances
Assistant District Attorney Noel DeSantis scoffed at those suggestions. Mill has commitment issues, DeSantis said, as evidenced by his inability to follow his probation rules.
Why not instead, DeSantis asked, have Mill sit on the board of an advocacy organization, something she said that could require month meetings.
In earlier filings, DeSantis’ office has said the aim of Mill’s charitable work was really to “spin more publicity for himself, not to be charitable.”
Attempting to object to a character witness, DeSantis said at one point, “He doesn’t have character. He’s a convicted felon.”
The friction has been mounting for some time.
Brinkley said Mill’s social media outbursts prompted her to require him to undergo social media etiquette training. Even after receiving it, though, Mill later called prosecutors “racist” in a rap song.
On Thursday, Mill called his comments toward the district attorney’s office “immature,” saying he was “being emotional.”
Former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore also gave character testimony, and said he’s believed Mill has turned the corner.
“I’m not familiar with your client’s music … but he has voice. A voice young folks will listen to, and a voice we need. For that reason, I’m here,” Moore said.
In response, Brinkley asked, “How many times am I supposed to give him chances? You know I’ve been helping him since 2009 … I ask you, how many times am I supposed to give him a second, third, fourth, fifth chance?”