Let me make this clear: I’m not team #FreeMeekMill, but I am team #FreeRobertRihmeekWilliams.
There is a difference.
Meek Mill is a highly touted street dude-turned-rapper from Philly. Robert Rihmeek Williams is a Philadelphia man who many believe has been wrongly incarcerated by an overzealous judge who is using her influence and judicial power to keep the man down.
Those who believe that Williams is being wrongly incarcerated will be the first to tell you that he isn’t a saint, but he’s no Meek Mill. Meek Mill murders on wax. Robert Rihmeek Williams has not murdered anyone. He’s not a danger to society. He’s not a criminal.
On records, Meek Mill has bodies and bricks. In real life, Robert Rihmeek Williams pops wheelies and, at one time, Percocets.
Either way, they are both Pennsylvania Inmate ND8400.
Many believe that Robert Rihmeek Williams is paying for Meek Mill’s mistakes. I’m one of them. Maybe it’s the lyrics of some of Mill’s greatest work that have a Philadelphia judge, Genece E. Brinkley, recently deeming Williams “a danger to the community.” Either way, Williams is in the bing, and if his lawyers can’t get this judge thrown off the case, he won’t be coming out anytime soon.
So let’s take a look at the case and show how bizarre this whole thing has gotten.
The whole case started back in 2007 when Williams was just 18. The rapper still had braids, and anyone who’s followed his career knows just how long ago this was.
In an interview with Billboard in 2015, Williams said he was on his way to a corner store when cops stopped him and “beat the shit out of me.” He still had the mug shot photo from the incident on his cellphone, which showed his face badly beaten.
“[I had] a concussion, stitches, braids ripped out. My blood was on the ceiling, on the floor,” he said.
Philadelphia cops said he tried to shoot them. Williams said that didn’t happen.
Didn’t matter. Williams was charged with assault, drug and gun possession. He was tried in 2008, and in January 2009, he was sentenced to 11-23 months in jail by Commons Pleas Court Judge Brinkley, who commented that she wanted the rapper to “turn his life around from selling drugs and instead focus on his musical talent.”
Williams served just five months of his initial sentence and was released in 2009 and given house arrest, which ended later that year. He was also given five years’ probation.
Everything that has happened since—all the news about his incarceration and run-ins with the judge—stems from this incident from when he was just 18 years old. And here’s the thing: Every time Williams commits another infraction, any infraction, the judge adds more probation time to his sentence, meaning that although Williams is a free man, he’s still living in a prison state.
From 2010 to 2012, Williams would test positive for weed and opioids, which wasn’t bad enough to warrant probation violations, but the incidents began to be straws that broke the judge’s back. In 2012, after Williams missed a couple of court dates, the judge ruled that because Williams couldn’t make it to court, maybe he shouldn’t be trusted with travel.
This appears to be the point when the relationship between Brinkley and Williams soured.
After stating that there was nothing more important than appearing in her courtroom, the judge determined that Williams shouldn’t be traveling if he couldn’t make his court appearances. Williams’ lawyer Joe Tacopina argued that as the rapper’s success continued to rise, his schedule became more demanding. But Brinkley wasn’t having it; she banned the star from going on the road.
Here’s how Billboard describes Williams’ ascent and perpetual downfall in 2014:
After his prison release, Meek Mill made it his duty to take his music seriously, which worked out in his favor as the rapper signed with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group label in 2011. Meek showed promise with the release of his breakout track “I’m a Boss” and his star continued to rise since as his debut album, Dreams and Nightmares, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. Despite all his success, the Philly native landed right back in courts in 2014 for violating his probation by booking performances outside of Philly without Judge Brinkley’s approval. The rapper was sentenced to three to six months in jail. Meek began his stint in July and was released from prison in December 2014. He was put on parole and ordered to complete etiquette classes.
Etiquette classes? Why?
It was “(i)n order to address his inappropriate social media use and crude language in the courtroom,” Brinkley wrote in court papers.
Apparently the judge wasn’t keen on the rapper using foul language on social media, so she decided she was going to do something about it, and that something was etiquette classes.
“Multiple Philadelphia lawyers told [music website] Pitchfork they had never heard of a judge ordering a defendant to take etiquette classes, though they noted that for better or worse, judges’ sentences are sometimes creative. For the next year, Meek attended court hearings every three months,” Pitchfork reports.
Most important, though, he was given an additional five years of probation.
In 2016, Williams would have several small infractions, including failing to meet with his probation officer and submitting cold water instead of urine during a drug test. The biggest infraction, and the one that really seemed to bother the judge, was that Williams again had traveled without her consent.
The only problem with this is that if Williams, as a rapper, can’t travel and perform songs while they’re hot, how can he make money? Saying that a rapper can work but he can’t leave his home state is like saying that I can write whatever I want, but I can’t use a computer, pen, paper or phone.
For this infraction, he was given six to 12 months of house arrest, but the real injustice here is that he was given another six years of probation. Which means that Williams would have to appear before this judge for an additional six years, hoping that he wasn’t thrown back in prison for the most minor misstep.
Finally, in 2017, Williams had two small infractions, and these are the crux of Brinkley’s reasoning for sending Williams back to jail.
At an airport in St. Louis, an employee wanted to take a photo with Williams, who refused, resulting in one of Williams’ entourage and the airport employee getting into a scuffle. Williams said that he was trying to break up the fight, but he was charged with misdemeanor assault. The assault charge was eventually dropped, but it was still cited in the judge’s reasoning for why he should go back to jail.
After the airport fight, Williams was in New York City to perform his aptly tilted song “YBA (Young Black America)” from his album Wins & Losses on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. The night before the performance, Williams and friends drove dirt bikes around Manhattan, during which, police witnessed Williams popping a wheelie. Williams was not arrested. In fact, he didn’t get arrested until video of the infamous wheelie went viral on social media. Police then charged him with reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
“A guy literally popped a wheelie for 10 seconds on the street with no one else around,” Tacopina said in a video posted by TMZ. “And the police were there. That’s very important. The police were there, and they saw it, and they didn’t arrest him. They didn’t even give him a traffic ticket, but somehow the video made it to social media.”
According to TMZ, Meek accepted a plea deal that removes the charge from his record under the condition that he stay out of trouble for six months and complete community service.
While all of these are probation violations, they are also the smallest of infractions that continue to have Williams in a perpetual prisoner state. Keep in mind that Williams is almost 30 years old, and because of his violations, he is still on probation from a case stemming from 2007!
And if all of this isn’t bizarre enough, let’s also add that the judge in his case allegedly asked the rapper to remake the Boyz II Men love ballad “On Bended Knee” and to name-drop the judge!
Williams’ lawyers also say that she asked the rapper to leave Roc Nation management and sign with a friend of hers who they say has a checkered past. And the judge allegedly appeared at one of Williams’ community service assignments to see if he was really there. The judge is now reportedly being investigated by the FBI for the way in which she’s handled Williams’ case.
The whole thing has been absurd.
In truth, the only person who seems to want to ensure that Williams stays in prison is the judge. In fact, during his last hearing before her court, not one person—not the prosecutors, not the police, no one—wanted him imprisoned for violations that didn’t even amount to actual charges.
“What we see in the Meek Mill case is someone who can go to jail for a lengthy term for not committing a new crime, but doing things that most would deem mistakes,” Philadelphia’s top public defender, Keir Bradford-Grey, ttold WHYY. “If we want mass incarceration to end, we have to understand what it looks like, and his case does exemplify that.”
Here’s to hoping that Williams is freed for the crimes committed by Mill and that someday we can stop holding people in prison forever even after they’ve served their time.