Fans and friends of rapper Robert Rihmeek "Meek Mill" Williams mobilized to support him after Genece E. Brinkley, a common pleas court judge in his hometown of Philadelphia, sentenced him to two to four years in state prison for probation violations. Hundreds of supporters rallied to protest the ruling Monday (November 13), and his label—Roc Nation—posted "Stand With Meek Mill" signs all over Philly.
Today (November 17), Roc Nation CEO Jay-Z connected Mill’s case to the broader conversation around racially biased sentencing in a The New York Times editorial.
"On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started," Jay-Z writes. "But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence. Now, he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside. What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of Black people every day."
Billboard notes that Mill was on probation following convictions for illegal gun and drug possession in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Jay-Z breaks down the reason for his most recent sentence as follows:
In March, he was arrested after an altercation in a St. Louis airport. After video of what had actually happened was released, all charges were dropped against [Mill]. In August, he was arrested for popping a wheelie on a motorcycle on his video set in New York. Those charges were dismissed after he agreed to attend traffic school.
Think about that. The charges were either dropped or dismissed, but the judge sent him to prison anyway.
Hov’s essay points readers to a petition from Color of Change that demands Brinkley, who is Black, recuse herself from Mill’s case. The petition accuses Brinkley of having "one of the highest rates of sending people to prison for probation violations" among Philadelphia judges. A report from Philadelphia Daily News cites unpublished court documents that allegedly show Brinkley has previously punished similar probation violations with multi-year sentences.