Meek Mill was released from prison Tuesday April 24 after being incarcerated for five months on a probation violation. And he was ordered released on bail because the Philadelphia District Attorney and Pennsylvania’s highest court agreed the witness against the rapper a decade ago was not credible. That witness was disgraced former Philly cop Reggie Graham.
It wasn’t easy legally to have Meek released, and it turned out, also not easy logistically; it took hours for the celebrated rapper’s team, local police and prison officials to navigate the process and see Meek released and jet away by helicopter.
Fans waited outside the Chester prison gates for the rapper to be freed and as afternoon turned into evening, the crowds swelled.
Comedian Kevin Hart and Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin met with Meek earlier in the day and Rubin posted at around 4:30 p.m. he was “on the way back to pick him up as we speak!”
Meek rang the ceremonial bell at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for the Game 5, the 76ers versus the Miami Heat.
And he was able to be there because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled the judge who has a history of locking Meek up over probation violations. Tuesday, in its order, the high court ruled that there are indeed “credibility issues with a police officer who was a ‘critical witness'” at Meek’s original trail. The high court said, he was entitled to extraordinary relief and was to be “granted immediate bail.”
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said last month that “due to questions about the credibility of his arresting officer, the rapper’s decade-old conviction on gun and drug charges should be vacated and he should be granted a new trial,” Philly.com reported.
Prosecutors admitted there were problems with the original arrest.
As Heavy first reported in mid-March, rapper Meek Mill’s original conviction that led to a jail sentence and probation that led to him violating the conditions of that probation as deemed by the judge so often that he’s been back in and out of jail and has been locked up for months. The essence of his legal team’s case is that former Philadelphia narcotics squad cop Reginald V. “Reggie” Graham lied about Meek; perjured testimony from a disgraced narcotics officer set off a Newton’s cradle of hell for the rapper. The truth about those lies, the Philadelphia DA says, may set the ‘Nightmares & Dreams’ MC free.
Rolling Stone published an expose about Meek and his case:
Meek was imprisoned on a probation violation tied to his 2008 arrest by Graham who, as the sole witness in the case, told a judge he saw Robert Rihmeek Williams (Meek’s real name), 19, selling crack to a police informant. But Meek was not even close to the location Graham alleged he’d seen him deal drugs; he was in a courtroom with a family member on an unrelated matter. And while there’s no video or pictures of him there, he was a slew of witnesses to back him up. It didn’t matter. Graham and other members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s scandal-ridden Narcotics Field Unit team rolled up to the family house where Meek was staying. Meek had a gun on him, for protection he said, and when he saw police coming, tossed it. The squad violently arrested him, beat him and others in the house and then during a search, found $30,000 in weed money and pocketed it, which it turns out was SOP for this unit; robbing alleged drug dealers even bodegas (corner stores).
But Graham took it further with Meek; he told the judge the up-and-coming rapper pointed a gun at him. Meek was sentenced to serve two years in prison on gun, assault and drug charges with eight years of restrictive probation based on the sworn testimony of a cop that said he’d witnessed a drug sale and that Meek pointed a gun at him. But a police officer that was part of the NFU testified last month that Graham’s account is a lie, a falsehood. Meek never pulled a gun much less did he point it at officers. The judge that’s been the bane of Meek’s existence since that initial arrest and conviction has locked him up repeatedly for probation violations, most technical violations like he didn’t call in on time and similar. A few violations were likely legit, but Judge Genece Brinkley has done everything in her power to keep Meek jailed. And she’s admitted as much.
But also about the likely corrupt judge, the criminal NFU and the systemic problem in Philadelphia and elsewhere of jailing young men of color and then tying them to long and strict probation sentences with an omnipresent probation officer (and in Meek’s case a judge) watching every move ensures they’ll violate in some way and end up back inside.
The investigative work by reporter Paul Solotaroff paints an at once vivid and grim portrait of what happened to Meek. But what’s revealed, Meeks’ lawyer says, is a case even bigger than Meek himself.
And it all starts with Reggie Graham. Heres what you need to know:
1. Philadelphia Police Officer Reggie Graham Lied Under Oath in 2008 to See Meek Mill, Then Robert Williams, Just 19, Convicted for Crimes the Teen & Up-&-Coming Rapper Did Not Commit
The Philadelphia District Attorney Wednesday said it would not oppose the release of Meek Mill on bail based on evidence that his conviction from 2008 came as a result of false testimony.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, which as been covering the ongoing story for years, reported that City of Brotherly Love prosecutors now believe it’s likely Meek’s conviction will be reversed because of Graham’s perjured testimony.
“There is a strong showing of likelihood of [Meek’s] conviction being reversed,” the DA’s office told the paper.
In February, Meek’s attorney wrote the court saying his client’s convictions were based wholly and solely on Graham’s testimony: “Without Graham’s testimony, [Meek] could not have been convicted on any count.”
2. Graham Was on a List of Cops Known to Be Habitually Untruthful & Not Fit to Testify in Court
Judge Brinkley took Graham’s word that one, he witnessed Meek sell crack and two, that Meek pointed a gun at the officer. Meek had chosen, poorly now perhaps in hindsight, for a bench trial rather than a jury trial so the decision was all Brinkley’s. And she not only sentenced Meek to two years in prison and eight years of severe and exacting probation, any misstep, no matter how minor, she locked him back up.
But her decision to convict was based on Graham’s testimony and his only, and that testimony could not be trusted. In a report last month, it was revealed that an undisclosed list existed in the now-former district attorney’s office of cops not to be trusted. Graham was on that list.
3. Graham Was Part of the Tainted Narcotics Field Unit Team That Were as Bad or Worse Than the Drug Dealers They Robbed & Extorted
According to court documents outlining charges in the federal investigation of the NFU, what Graham’s former partner Jeffrey Walker told Rolling Stone matches what federal agents allege: “We stole millions of dollars” Walker told Rolling Stone. Walker was convicted in 2013 and served almost three years in prison.
“From 2002 on, we were basically stickup guys,” Walker said and court documents show. For example, according to the sworn affidavit of FBI agent Denis Drum, Graham’s partner Walker and another NFU officer planned an arrest, planted cocaine, took the person’s house key while they had him in custody and proceeded to go into his house and rob him of $15,000.
NFU officers would plant drugs to make bogus arrests, lie to get warrants, bust in doors, beat and rob suppliers.
4. Graham Has Not Been Charged With a Crime Related to Meek Mill Case
The list of cops not to be used as witnesses because they were untrustworthy named Graham. The secret list showed that in November of 2103, Graham was being “investigated by federal authorities for several alleged acts of corruption.”
There was to be a Police Board of Inquiry but Graham “retired before his hearing.”
It’s not clear if Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, a former civil rights attorney and public defender, will charge Graham.
In 2007, just days after Graham said he’d witnessed Meek sell crack, a flattering feature story was written about him and his befriending and mentoring of a young drug dealer. The article in Philadelphia Weekly tells the story of a very different Reggie Graham.
“Narcotics squads require police to play various roles. Running faster than anyone he meets in the streets is just one of the attributes Graham brings to his squad. His martial arts training can also be relied upon to end altercations quickly and with minimal damage when a suspect starts swinging. He’s also one of the squad’s best interrogators, able to win the confidence of men whose entire lives as drug dealers are based upon mistrust.”
5. Graham, Who Moved to Central Florida, Declined to Speak About Meek
Rolling Stone reported that Graham moved to central Florida and declined all requests for comment.
Graham’s former partner Jeffrey Walker who spoke to Rolling Stone and testified about the NFU said Graham “lied like it was second nature…If you had your weapon drawn, [Meek’s] never pulling a gun. The second he raised that weapon, he would’ve had one breath to live. Straight up and down, they’d have aired him out. We’re talking closed casket, not open.”
When Graham left the department in 2017, he’d been earning about $72,000, a year public records show. It’s not clear what his pension salary amounts to but there’s a number of civil court cases easily found lodged against Graham by former arrestees who claim their rights were violated by him and other NFU members who abused their power as police officers.