Meek Mill pleads guilty to gun charge, but deal spares him more prison time

The Morning Call - - LOCAL / REGION - By Maryclaire Dale

PHILADEL­PHIA — Rap­per Meek Mill pleaded guilty to a mis­de­meanor gun charge Tues­day in a deal that re­solves a 2007 ar­rest that has kept him on pro­ba­tion or in prison for most of his adult life.

The ne­go­ti­ated plea comes af­ter an ap­peals court threw out his con­vic­tion last month over doubts about the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer’s cred­i­bil­ity. The 32-year-old rap­per, born Robert Wil­liams, is now free of a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem he hopes to re­form.

“I know this has been a long road for you and hope­fully this will be the end of it,” Judge Leon Tucker told him.

Wil­liams has called the 12year or­deal “men­tally and emo­tion­ally chal­leng­ing,” but said mil­lions of peo­ple face the same is­sues.

“I know you prob­a­bly got fam­ily mem­bers in jail, peo­ple go­ing through the same thing as me,” Wil­liams told a small crowd as he left the court­house. “I will con­tinue to do what I do with the re­form move­ment and help the peo­ple that helped me.”

He took up the cause af­ter clash­ing re­peat­edly with the trial judge who or­dered 10 years of pro­ba­tion and sent him back to prison in 2017 for tech­ni­cal vi­o­la­tions. He spent five months locked up be­fore the Pennsylvan­ia Su­pe­rior Court granted him bail and re­moved her from the case.

District At­tor­ney Larry Kras­ner’s of­fice sup­ported Wil­liams’ ap­peal and said it could not call the for­mer of­fi­cer to tes­tify af­ter the depart­ment found he’d stolen money on duty and lied about it. The of­fi­cer, Regi­nald Gra­ham, has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Still, Kras­ner could not ig­nore that Wil­liams ac­knowl­edged hav­ing a gun, though he de­nied point­ing it at po­lice or sell­ing drugs.

Kras­ner has over­seen an of­fice that has backed more than a dozen ex­on­er­a­tions but said this is not that type of case. It is one in which Wil­liams was guilty of a gun crime, but was ex­ces­sively pun­ished, Kras­ner said.

“Just as Mr. Wil­liams has evolved in the last 10-plus years, the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem also needs to evolve,” he said.

Kah­sim Buey, 23, lis­tened to his mu­sic grow­ing up in North Philadel­phia and lis­tened in court Tues­day as he en­tered his plea. Buey, who spent time in a youth de­ten­tion cen­ter at 14, re­cently be­came the first in his fam­ily to grad­u­ate col­lege and hopes to be­come a lawyer.

He be­lieves that judges of­ten be­lieve po­lice over de­fen­dants.

“Just like the Meek sit­u­a­tion. His voice was lit­tle at the be­gin­ning, but now his voice is big be­cause of the per­son he is,” Buey said. “I’m very happy for Meek today.”

Buey, a law in­tern, said he was pulled over by po­lice this month for al­legedly run­ning a red light on his bike. The of­fi­cer searched his draw­string bag for a gun, he said.

“They know our voice is lit­tle, so they mess with us,” he said. “That’s why I want to be­come a lawyer.”

In 2015, a fed­eral jury re­jected a law­suit Wil­liams filed against Philadel­phia po­lice over what he called a racially mo­ti­vated, 10hour traf­fic stop that led him to miss the launch party for his 2012 de­but al­bum, “Dreams & Nightmares.”

His fol­low-up al­bums in­clude the chart-top­ping “Dreams Worth More Than Money” and last year’s “Cham­pi­onships,” which in­cludes per­for­mances from Jay-Z, his men­tor, and for­mer girl­friend Nicki Mi­naj.

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 and start­ing a $50 mil­lion crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form group.

JES­SICA GRIF­FIN/AP

Rap­per Meek Mill, cen­ter, speaks Tues­day af­ter ex­it­ing the Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Cen­ter in Philadel­phia.

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