Illustration: Sean McCabe for Rolling Stone; Photograph: Karl Ferguson Jr.
ROLLING STONE: Judges in Pennsylvania have broad discretion over the length and terms of jail bids. “It’s not uncommon, with harsher judges, to see 10-year probations for lesser offenses,” say one veteran criminal lawyer who represents the poor in Philadelphia. “Brinkley’s the judge you’d least want to be supervised by. Any failure to live by her rules will be punished.” She isn’t the only judge to hang long leashes, but is, according to every lawyer I spoke to, the most needlessly severe. “She had a parolee before her who was nine months pregnant – and sent her off to prison to deliver,” says another attorney who asked that I not name him.
When Meek got out of jail in the summer of 2009, he appeared before Brinkley for status hearings. The theme of those sessions is best summed up by a recurring phrase of hers: You’re thumbing your nose at me. She uses it over and over again to describe small mix-ups – a scheduling snafu here, a missed phone call there. Meek would explain himself and apologize profusely, but nothing seemed to salve her sense of outrage. “All the opportunities I’ve given you,” she said in a typical broadside. “Each and every time, you’ve done something to indicate that you have no respect for this court.” Two years ago, he got the chance to talk to her in chambers, and hoped, out of earshot of the lawyers and reporters, to make her see how hard he was really trying. In February 2016, he came to court with his then-girlfriend, Nicki Minaj. The meeting in Brinkley’s chambers was not recorded by a court transcriber, and Minaj has declined offers to confirm Meek’s account; she and Meek broke up badly some months later. But there were several of Meek’s people in court that day (lawyers, executives from RocNation), and some of them spoke about what he and Minaj told them moments after the meeting.
“They were both in shock, saying, ‘We can’t believe what just went down,'” says Desiree Perez, the COO of RocNation. “The judge said, ‘I’m not really the monster you think I am. In fact, a lot of people look up to me.'” Then she asked them to do a song for her, a remix of the Boys II Men hit “On Bended Knee.” “Fucking Nicki busts out laughing, but I grabbed her leg, going, ‘Yo, this is my life here,'” Meek recalls. “I tried to tell the judge, ‘All respect, but that ain’t me. I’m a Philly street rapper, not a bubblegum dude.’ She says, ‘Fine, then,’ in a real sarcastic way. ‘Suit yourself.'”
Tacopina, Meek’s lawyer, rang his contacts at the FBI. Two agents came to Philly to talk to Meek. They asked him to wear a wire in front of Brinkley – just get her to out herself on tape and his long legal nightmare would be over. Meek declined. “In my world, that’s called snitching,” he says flatly. Instead, he served the year of house arrest, and got an additional six years of probation. In all, that comes to 14 years under Brinkley’s thumb. His original sentence called for 23 months. Between jail and house arrest, he’s done almost four years, and may spend that much again in state prison. MORE
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office last year secretly compiled a list of Philadelphia police officers with a history of lying, racial bias, or brutality, in a move to block them from testifying in court. The confidential list of about two dozen was assembled by prosecutors on a special Police Misconduct Review Committee at the order of former District Attorney Seth Williams, sources familiar with the roster said. It was supposed to attack locally a national problem: police “testilying” — falsifying evidence, framing suspects, and lying about it in court. The list has not been made public, but the sources said it included Reginald V. Graham, who in 2007 arrested the rapper Meek Mill, whose jailing for violating probation on those gun and drug charges has stirred widespread debate about the fairness of the criminal-justice system. MORE