I usually try to keep my blogs centered around entertainment law issues as opposed to an intersection of where law and entertainment combine, but every now and again I like to touch on legal issues facing entertainers, especially when there aren’t any pressing entertainment law cases that interest me. So, let’s talk Meek Mill. Because he’s been going through it. And he has been receiving an overwhelming amount of support and publicity behind his criminal law issues.
Let’s recap. Back in November of last year, Meek was sentenced to 2-4 years in prison for popping wheelies on his dirt bike, and for getting into a fight earlier that year. These acts were a violation of his probation stemming from a 2008 conviction on gun and drug charges. Did you do the math? Convicted in 2008, served 8 months, given 5 years’ probation. Still on probation almost 10 years later. And locked up for 2-4 years for popping wheelies…popping wheelies. Let’s talk about it. When convicted in 2008, he was given a 5-year probation sentence, which was probably par for the course, given the nature of the offenses. His probation was extended from the initial 5 years, by the judge for other probation violations – like travelling for work. Travelling for work!
In handing down the 2-4-year sentence, the judge cited a failed drug test and noncompliance with travel restrictions as the reasons for his detainment. Her stance – she’s given the rapper endless chances to do right, he chose otherwise, he has to pay the price. But, Meek Mill’s legal team is not backing down. They are determined to get him out of this 2-4-year sentence handed down by Judge Genece Brinkley for violation of his probation. Their most recent move was to file a motion for Judge Brinkley’s removal, who they contend has taken an unusual interest in Meek’s personal life and has overstepped her boundaries as sitting judge, by acting as prosecutor, and imposing sanctions that the actual prosecutor in the case did not request. Interestingly enough, this appears to be a case where all the players in the courtroom are in favor of Meek (assistant district attorney and probation officer), but Judge Brinkley ain’t playing no games with Meek. Judge Brinkley has hired her own personal attorney, namely, Charles Peruto, who vehemently denies any claims of impropriety by the Judge. Meek’s legal team claims, Mr. Peruto has also threatened to sue Meek and his management team – for what exactly, I’m not sure.
This is the thing. And you’re probably not going to like it. Meek committed a crime; however slight we might think the crime to be. He ain’t kill nobody. He didn’t even hurt anybody. But – he broke the law. He got caught, he did some time, he received probation for the remainder of his sentence and he had some rules he had to follow to keep him from going back to jail. He didn’t follow the rules. He bucked on the system. And Judge Brinkley, said uh, no sir. Not on my watch. That’s the basics. Now, don’t get me wrong – the system is fucked! Royally! He wouldn’t be going through any of this if he were white. Possibly not even if he weren’t a celebrity – well at least one who raps about the type of shit he raps about. And Judge Brinkley is definitely doing the most. She was clowning – checking up on Meek’s community service, requesting he make songs about her, trying to get him to connect with her people – she seemed star struck. She probably wanted to be his friend and just didn’t know how. Lawyers can be socially awkward at times…
Buuuuut, we’re also not talking about a man who was on probation and did what he was supposed to do. We’re talking about someone who said, yea I’m on probation, but I have to do what I have to do, and if that means violating probation, so be it. While everyone is understandably upset about what’s happening to him, where was the uproar when his attorney and the ADA settled on probation terms that prevented him from making a living? He’s a rapper. He travels for shows. Part of community supervision is to be a productive member of society, which includes earning a living (as well as community service), and it has always been clear to us what his job is and what exactly that entails. Where was the support from the ADA, probation officer, etc. in appealing the sentence that extended his probation for all those additional years? I couldn’t even be on probation for 10 years and not violate. And I’m not a criminal. I mean, I wasn’t there, so maybe they tried, and Judge Brinkley was like sorry, sucks to be you, make some money in the state, and be on probation for the inevitable future, or go to jail now. And if so, that definitely drives home the point at how flawed the system is, especially as it pertains to black people, but as a black person, I try to be more conscientious of the bandwagons I hop on. I get it. We live in a racist society. It’s engrained in the very fiber of our supposed democracy. Discrimination is so institutionalized and openly practiced that people don’t even realize that they are racist. We have whites and blacks making babies, because on a surface level, we think we’ve progressed beyond the times, and we don’t see color, and blah blah blah bullshit. But when some shit pops off and it hits close to home, those undiscovered truths come to light, and hell, you surprise yourself because you thought you weren’t like that, but how could you not be? But that’s probably another blog for another time. Stuff like this is the very reason I shied away from criminal law, because that was initially what I went to law school for – to be a criminal defense attorney. I wanted to make sure shit like what’s happening to Meek Mill right now, wasn’t happening on my watch. But then reality sank in – the uphill battle that would be my life every day, if I chose to take on this racist system and fight. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fight in me. I’m a lover, not a fighter. So, I chose music – it’s the universal language of love. Music sees no color. I can say that with certainty.
But anyway, hopefully the motion will be heard at his upcoming hearing on April 16, and maybe justice will be served for Meek – whatever that means to you. He did violate. This much is true. But I do know, a 2-4-year sentence for popping a wheelie and being high (a crime that hurts no one but you) is ridiculous. Save the prisons for the real criminals, not those who got caught up in the system once and entangled in the web of injustice forever. #FreeMeek
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment legal news, especially in the areas of music. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!