On Halloween night 2012, police pulled over a Range Rover moving through the streets of North Philadelphia. Inside the vehicle were Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill and three members of his entourage—an Atlantic Records executive, an off-duty police officer and the rapper’s cousin—all of whom were headed to catch a flight to Atlanta to launch Mill’s debut album, Dreams & Nightmares.
Officers initially said they stopped the Range Rover because of its dark tinted windows, but cops then claimed they smelled marijuana. The stop lasted more than 10 hours and included Mill being handcuffed. No drugs were found in a search of the vehicle and no one was charged. The rapper, whose real name is Robert Williams, believed the stop had been racially motivated and he filed a civil rights lawsuit against the police and the city.
On Thursday, Mill lost his case when a mostly white jury found that his Fourth Amendment rights barring unreasonable searches and seizures weren't violated.
"They ain't from where I'm from," Mill told the Associated Press after the jury reached its decision. "I [don't] really expect them to understand what I go through."
"I respect their decision, though," he added.
At the time of the stop, Mill was on probation stemming from a 2008 drug and gun case.
The lead officer during the traffic stop, Andre Boyer, was under investigation at the time and would later be fired for lying to Internal Affairs about another traffic stop, according to trial memos, the AP reports. According to Mill's lawsuit, Boyer had received more civilian complaints than any other city officer.
"I just feel like he did me wrong," Mill said of Boyer.
Mill's lawyer Dennis Cogan called the claim of smelling marijuana on the part of the police "a pretext" often used by rogue police to search a vehicle.
While the jury in the civil case ruled against Mill's claim, AP reports that in an unusual twist, jurors wrote a note that was read aloud after the verdict indicating that they felt both Mill and police contributed to the incident.
"Although we voted unanimously that Mr. Williams' Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, we feel strongly both the plaintiff and defendant were in the wrong and made mistakes," the note read.
Lawyers for the city argued that Boyer was not the only officer involved in the stop and that he followed procedure.
"Any reasonable officer faced with those circumstances would have conducted an investigation," Amanda Shoffel, a deputy city solicitor, said in closing arguments Thursday, AP reports.
Mill was seeking about $400,000 in damages, lost income and emotional distress.
"In neighborhoods like where I come from, four black males in a car … we're always being asked to be searched," Mill testified Monday. "All I was doing that night was going to work and doing what I had to do."
Mill's debut album, released the day of the stop, climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart.
Read more at the Associated Press.