The lawyer representing Meek Mill, the platinum-selling rapper whose jail sentence has made him a cause celebré for criminal justice reform advocates, sees a glimmer of hope for setting his client free.
The Philly cop who arrested Mill in 2007 on gun and drugs charges was on the District Attorney’s naughty list of two dozen officers suspected of lying under oath, racial bias and brutality, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this week.
The latest development in Mill’s case has bolstered suspicion among his fans that the rapper has fallen prey to a criminal justice system that’s perennially stacked against young black men.
“Across the justice system, there are many instances of people that are incarcerated being subsequently let out when police corruption is uncovered,” Mill’s lawyer Joe Tacopina told Complex. “This would certainly be one of those instances.” Tacopina went on to note that Officer Reginald V. Graham not only arrested Mill, but was also the only cop to testify against Mill in his trial.
Graham, 47, retired from the force in 2017 and according to the Inquirer, made more than 400 arrests during his 22-year career. The list was created for prosecutors as a clip ’n’ save guide to potentially corrupt or untrustworthy cops and was not intended for public scrutiny.
A spokesperson for the office of newly-elected DA Larry Krasner, a progressive and vocal proponent of criminal justice reform, confirmed the existence of the list to VICE News, but wouldn’t say whether the Graham was on it.
“At this time we are not releasing the names of officers as we conduct our own internal review,” said Ben Waxman, communications director for Krasner. “This was compiled by a previous administration, and its not a policy that we put in place, we inherited, and only recently found out about it.
“We believe very strongly in transparency, openness and accountability,” Waxman added. “We’re trying to determine how to best operationalize that with this particular document.
VICE News reached out to Graham by phone but did not get a response.
Graham arrested Mill, then 19 and a rising teen rapper, on Jan. 24, 2007 for drug possession and allegedly pointing a firearm at an officer. “He’s always maintained that he never possessed any drugs and that he never pointed a gun at any police officers,” Tacopina told Complex. He was convicted the following year, and in Jan. 2009, he was sentenced to 11 and a half to 23 months behind bars, and seven years of probation. He was released on house arrest after five months.
In the years that have followed, Mill, now 30, has struggled to stick to the terms of his probation — which his lawyer claims was excessively long, given the original charges. He flouted court orders by making unauthorized travel plans, and tested positive for marijuana and opioid use.
Most serious of the violations cited by Judge Genece Brinkley, who has overseen his case from the get-go, was a fight at St Louis airport (the charges against him were dropped) and doing a wheelie on a bike in New York City. In Nov. 2017, Brinkley sentenced Mill to two to four years behind bars.
The sentence caused a public outcry, and Jay-Z, who signed Mill to his record label Roc Nation in 2012, became his most vocal and public advocate.
“For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside,” wrote Jay-Z in an op-ed for the New York Times. “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.”
Mill’s case has remained in the public spotlight. When the Philadelphia Eagles played the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years, they showed solidarity with Mills by walking out onto the field to his anthem, “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro).”
Even more recently, Mill got an unexpected shout out at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, when Slovenian halfpipe qualifier Tit Stante propped up his snowboard to reveal “#FreeMeekMill” had been scrawled on its underside in marker.
Cover image: Rapper Meek Mill attends his 'Wins And Losses' album signing at DTLR - Rhode Island Ave on July 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brian Stukes/Getty Images)