Rapper Meek Mill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour gun charge on Tuesday and won’t serve additional time in prison.
The 32-year-old rapper, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, reached the plea agreement in Philadelphia to resolve a case that’s kept him on probation for most of his adult life. It came after an appeals court threw out his conviction last month.
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The Dreams and Nightmares rapper already served about two years in prison in the case and a judge decided he won’t have to spend any additional time behind bars or on probation.
“I know this has been a long road for you and hopefully this will be the end of it,” Judge Leon Tucker told Meek Mill.
The negotiated plea came after both sides questioned the credibility of the arresting officer who testified against the rapper at his trial.
Last month, a Pennsylvania appeals court overturned the conviction, saying new evidence undermined the credibility of the officer who testified against the rapper at his trial and made it likely he would be acquitted if the case were retried.
“(The state) cannot call a witness whose credibility it mistrusts,” prosecutors wrote in a legal brief this year.
Reginald Graham, the officer who wrote the search warrant in Meek Mill’s case and testified at his trial, left the Philadelphia Police Department a few years ago after an internal probe found he had stolen money and then lied about it.
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The officer testified at trial that Meek Mill pointed a gun at him during his 2007 arrest outside his home in southwest Philadelphia.
The Uptown Vibes rapper, who was 19 at the time, denied pointing a gun at police.
A police colleague who took part in the arrest later said Graham lied about Meek Mill brandishing a gun.
Graham has denied the allegations.
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Meek Mill has called the 12-year ordeal “mentally and emotionally challenging,” but said millions of people face the same issues. He has become an activist for criminal justice reform since he was sent back to prison in 2017 for technical violations he blamed on his erratic travel schedule as his career soared. He spent five months locked up before an appeals court granted him bail.
The rapper has spent a total of about two years in prison over the case, including an initial term of about a year and several later stints over travel violations and painkiller use.
“The past 11 years have been mentally and emotionally challenging, but I’m ecstatic that justice prevailed,” Meek Mill said last month after his conviction was overturned. “Unfortunately, millions of people are dealing with similar issues in our country and don’t have the resources to fight back like I did. We need to continue supporting them.”
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On July 24, just hours before the Pennsylvania Superior Court threw out his conviction, Meek Mill and Jay-Z announced they were launching a new label called Dream Chasers Records. His growing business empire also includes an ownership stake in the hat company Lids.
Jay-Z and Meek Mill joined forces earlier this year to form a coalition that lobbies for changes to state probation and parole laws called the Reform Alliance.
“We come from the same neighbourhoods, been through the same things,” said Jay-Z, who grew up in the Marcy Projects public housing complex in Brooklyn. “We’re some of the few that made it through … (and) that responsibility is not lost on us. We haven’t made it to this point just to be like, ‘Let’s just irresponsibly live our life.’ We had fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s fun, too, but there’s a responsibility that we carry for the entire culture.”
Meek Mill added: “Me coming out of prison this time, I signed up for a bigger responsibility. I always felt like I had a responsibility to lead the culture as much as I can. I always say Jay-Z and others that came before me was like a snowplow for people like myself. They made it easier to walk through the snowstorm. I want to continue to be a snowplow for the next generation coming behind me.”
Meek Mill took to Twitter on Tuesday to discuss how “extremely grateful” he is that his “long legal battle” is finally behind him.
“I appreciate that it has sparked a much-needed discussion about probation reform and the inequalities that exist within our two Americas,” the rapper tweeted.
“I have always told the truth — that as a teenager, who saw many around me die from senseless gun violence, I carried a gun for protection,” the Levels rapper wrote. “I take responsibility for that and — in conjunction with my work on the @REFORM Alliance —”
“I’ll continue to use my platform to make communities safer and reform our criminal justice system. I want to express my gratitude to all of my supporters, especially JAY-Z, Desiree Perez, Michael Rubin, my legal team and everyone else who stood by me throughout the years,” the father of one wrote.
“It’s important that we now channel our energy into helping the millions that are unjustly trapped in our criminal justice system. #Justice4Millions #Reform.”
Meek Mill recently released a five-episode documentary series on Amazon Prime Video titled Free Meek.
Free Meek follows his fight for exoneration in his legal case and his work with the Reform Alliance.
—With files from the Associated Press