Genece Brinkley, the Philadelphia judge presiding over the Meek Mill case, is under investigation by the FBI, reports allege, after meting out what some believe was a too-harsh sentence for the rapper.
“The outcry over rapper Meek Mill’s tough sentence has attracted the attention of the FBI, which has launched a probe into the Philadelphia judge presiding over the case,” Page Six reported. Meek Mill, who was born Robert Rihmeek Williams in Philadelphia, is a popular hip-hot artist, and top Hollywood celebrities have joined fans in questioning the severity of his sentence for a probation violation. The hashtag #FreeMeekMill is trending on Twitter.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Judge Is Accused by the Defense of Asking to Be in a Meek Mill Song
No official allegations have been formally lodged against Judge Genece Brinkley, 61m, by authorities. However, Page Six reported that the FBI is investigating her alleged “potential relationships. This is an investigation looking into a possible extortionate demand. Undercover agents have been in the courtroom monitoring the Meek proceedings since April 2016.” Meek Mill’s lawyers have filed court documents seeking to get the judge removed from the case.
TMZ reported that Philly music mogul, Charlie Mack “allegedly once told Meek he knew the judge and could help him with his case.” However, Mack denied that claim to the New York Post. According to TMZ, “Meek’s lawyer says Judge Brinkley also once asked Meek to do a remix to a Boyz II Men song and to give her a shout-out on it, and that her harsh sentence was a result of him” refusing to do so.
Philly.com describes the accusation from Meek Mill’s defense team this way: “That in a private meeting, the judge asked Mill last year to record a version of a Boyz II Men ballad called ‘On Bended Knee’ and mention the judge in it.” A lawyer for Meek Mill claims that Mill told the judge, “I can’t do that. It’s not my music. I don’t sing that stuff. And I don’t do, like, you know, shout-outs to people in my songs,” with Brinkley supposedly responding, “OK, suit yourself.” The judge has said that judicial rules prohibit her from commenting.
2. The Judge Sentenced Meek Mill to Prison for Two to Four Years, Rejecting the Prosecutor’s Recommendation
Meek Mill’s supporters in the courtroom “gasped” when the judge handed down a two to four year prison sentence for a probation violation, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Brinkley sentenced Meek Mill “to two to four years in prison for again violating his probation from a 2008 drug and gun case, putting his career on hold for at least the next two years,” the newspaper reported.
The judge lectured Meek Mill during the sentencing, saying he had worn out her patience for leniency. “I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court,” Brinkley told Mill, according to the newspaper. During the sentencing, Meek Mill told the judge, according to The Inquirer: “I’m human. I’m not perfect. I’m asking for mercy. You gave me the ladder to do what I have to do to prevail in my struggle. I made it this far, I can’t really go back and start over.”
According to The AP, Brinkley said, “I’ve been trying to help you since 2009. You basically thumbed your nose at me.” Part of the controversy ignited because Brinkley did not accept the prosecutor’s recommendation. “A prosecutor recommended that Mill not be imprisoned for the violations, saying that he has been clean since January and that he has grown as a person since his original crime,” AP reported of the rapper.
The Philadelphia newspaper described how Genece Brinkley has been the judge on the case for years, once “ordering him to take etiquette lessons in 2013 after he complained about the judge, prosecutor and probation officer in less-than-flattering street slang in internet posts, so he would know how to act in public and online.” The latest violations came after two arrests (for reckless driving and fighting, although the latter case was dropped in exchange for community service), and treatment for Percocet addiction as well as scheduling concerts outside the area against a previous order, Philly.com reported.
3. Genece Brinkley Has a History of Sentencing People to Prison for Probation Violations but Jay-Z Joined Critics of the Sentence
The public outrage against Judge Brinkley revolves around the argument that she gave Meek Mill an unusually severe sentence for a probation violation. However, Philly.com reported that Brinkley has “sent men off to state prison for violating their probation” seven times in the last four years. The cases have not been overturned in appeals, the newspaper noted.
“A review of other Brinkley sentencings of probation violators shows that Mill’s punishment was not an outlier. And every time, her decisions have been upheld by a higher court,” Philly.com reported.
Jay-Z was one of the celebrities who weighed in on Meek Mill’s side. “The sentence handed down by the Judge — against the recommendation of the Assistant District Attorney and Probation Officer — is unjust and heavy-handed …” he said. In contrast, though, Joe Tacopina, Meek Mill’s lawyer, also alleged of the judge that she was “enamored with … (Meek). She showed up at his community service (site) for the homeless people (at Philly’s Broad Street Ministry) … You can pull any judge in America and ask them how many times they’ve shown up at a community service (site) for a probation and the answer is zero,” The Philadelphia Tribune reported.
4. Brinkley Has Been a Judge Since 1993
Genece Brinkley has been a judge for years, and, according to Philly.com, her tenure has been relatively non-controversial until now. “A Nashville native and 1978 graduate of Spelman College, with a law degree from Temple University,” Brinkley “has quietly served on the city’s Common Pleas Court for a quarter-century,” the newspaper reported.
According to Ballotpedia, Brinkley “is a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. She ran for retention to the court in November 2013 for a term that will expire in 2023. Brinkley was retained to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas with 77 percent of the vote on November 5, 2013.”
5. More Than 300,000 Thousand People Have Signed a Petition Calling Meek Mill’s Sentence Unduly Harsh
A petition on Change.org has generated several hundred thousand signatures, and outrage has ignited on social media about Meek Mill’s sentence. “In regards to the harsh, undeserving sentencing of Robert Rihmeek Williams (Meek Mill), I felt the need to create a petition asking that the Board of Pardons closely review Meek’s application for Pardon and have his unjust prison sentence remedied. We also call on Governor Tom Wolf, who has spoken out in support of rehabilitation and criminal justice reform, to immediately look into this matter,” the petition starts.
The petition says that it “is designed to show the amount of people who believe that Meek’s punishment was harsh and unjust. It is a waste of not only taxpayer resources to incarcerate Meek for 2-4 years but it is also a disservice to the youth and community at large.”