Rapper Meek Mill to be released from prison after uproar over harsh term

Meek Mill was convicted in 2008 on charges related to the possession of drugs and guns, serving eight months in prison before being placed on probation for five years.
Meek Mill was convicted in 2008 on charges related to the possession of drugs and guns, serving eight months in prison before being placed on probation for five years.PHOTO: NYTIMES

(NYTimes) - Meek Mill, the Philadelphia rapper whose incarceration on a decade-old drug and guns conviction set off a wave of protests from his fans and supporters, was granted bail on Tuesday (April 24) after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered his release.

"As we have said all along, Meek was unjustly convicted and should not have spent a single day in jail," his lawyer Joe Tacopina said in a statement.

Meek Mill, whose given name is Robert Rahmeek Williams, had been incarcerated in a state prison in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was convicted in 2008 on charges related to the possession of drugs and guns, serving eight months in prison before being placed on probation for five years, a period that has been extended several times.

In November, Judge Genece E. Brinkley sentenced him to two to four years in prison for parole violations, including two arrests, one of which was on a reckless driving charge while shooting a music video in New York.

But in a hearing last week, prosecutors said his conviction should be vacated because of questions about the credibility of his arresting officer.

"Although I'm blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don't have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues," Meek Mill said in a statement. "In the meantime, I plan to work closely with my legal team to overturn this unwarranted conviction and look forward to reuniting with my family and resuming my music career."

His supporters consider his case a symbol of a flawed criminal justice system. In November, Jay-Z wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times that Meek Mill was an example of a system that "entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day". "For about a decade, he's been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside," he wrote.

Meek Mill had not yet been released as of late Tuesday afternoon but was expected to be freed Tuesday evening. It may not be long until he makes his first public appearance. An outspoken fan of the Philadelphia 76ers, Meek Mill is "more likely than not" to attend the basketball team's playoff game in Philadelphia tonight, said Michael Rubin, one of the team's owners.

The team has a notable local figure ring a ceremonial bell before each game, and Meek Mill would perform the task tonight if he is released in time, Rubin said. "Philadelphia's going to go crazy," he said.