A few days ago on August 27, 12 years after Meek Mill (born Robert Rihmeek Williams) was arrested on gun and drug charges, justice was finally done in Philadelphia’s Stout Justice Center when he was offered and accepted a misdemeanor guilty plea deal that ended any chance of additional incarceration, parole, or probation.
In a July 12, 2018 Inquirer article, still renowned and recently retired columnist Stu Bykofsky sardonically wrote, “President Trump... could have selected a jurist [for the US Supreme Court] who could attract support beyond Trump’s dependable, adoring Deplorables. He could have sent a bat-signal of welcome to African American voters.... [He could have nominated]... Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley... [because she is] a ‘law-and-order’ hardliner... [who] would have appealed to Trump’s conservative base. Locking up a black rapper would have been icing on the cake.”
As a trial lawyer for more than 20 years and as a Black person during my entire life, I’m not gonna make excuses for Meek. It appears that he did mess up- more than once. But, in criminal court proceedings, it’s not about what a defendant did or appeared to have done. It’s about due process and justice from judges and other law enforcement officials.
Following Meek’s 2007 arrest, 63-year-old Brinkley convicted him in 2009 of seven drug and weapon-related charges, five of which, it must be made clear, were mere misdemeanors. She gave him an 11 ½ – 23 month county jail sentence followed by three years probation. But he allegedly violated probation in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015. However, they weren’t for killing, robbing, shooting, or otherwise hurting anyone. They were for technical purported violations involving motorcycle wheelies, drug use, a petty altercation, and performances at concerts without Brinkley’s permission. Although what he did might have been wrong, it certainly did not warrant the draconian two-to-four year state prison sentence she imposed in 2017 for those mere technical supposed violations. The idea of sending a nonviolent parole/probation violator to state prison for two-to-four years with convicted murderers, rapists, armed robbers, and kidnappers is mean-spirited, arbitrary, capricious, and conscience-shocking.
It was reported last year that even Brinkley’s lawyer- arguably one of the greatest criminal trial litigators in modern Philadelphia history- stated during a videotaped recording, “She looks f---ing awful” in her stubborn refusal to grant Meek a new trial despite an agreement for such between Meek’s attorney and the prosecutor and despite a police internal affairs finding that the cop who arrested Meek in 2007 and who later testified in Meek’s trial as the only alleged eyewitness was both a liar and a thief. (By the way, Brinkley’s lawyer denies he ever made the aforementioned statement about her.)
Following numerous post-sentence motions and appeals, the state Supreme Court in April of last year overruled Brinkley by granting bail for Meek. Then in July of this year, the state Superior Court not only reversed Brinkley’s conviction of Meek as well as her parole/probation violation rulings and ordered a new trial but also completely removed her from the entire case. I guess justice delayed is not always justice denied. And here are five reasons why voters should seek even more justice by removing Brinkley in her next judicial retention bid.
1. Governor Tom Wolf in February said, Brinkley “just apparently doesn’t like Meek Mill....” The governor continued by pointing out, “[Meek] was confined [by Brinkley] to 14 years of probation and his last infraction was popping a wheelie. That’s the... kind of... [sentence] that is just wrong, but it’s also not very smart.... It doesn’t help anybody who’s in a position to get back into the swing of things, help their family, help their community, help their economy. All those things are thwarted by having a bad criminal justice system.”
2. Former Governor, Mayor, and District Attorney Ed Rendell telephoned Brinkley in 2017 prior to her scheduled re-sentencing of Meek for an alleged probation violation and reasonably requested that she reverse her ban on Meek performing out-of-state. By doing so, Rendell mentioned, Meek would generate more income and donate 15 percent (of arguably millions of dollars, including a portion of a scheduled $450,000 payday he had- but was judicially forced to lose- for a concert in Dubai) to the city’s financially struggling pre-K program. But Brinkley ignored Rendell and sentenced Meek to state prison.
By the way, I should add here that Brinkley’s counterproductive state prison sentence not only improperly punished Meek but also punished society at a cost of $42,000 yearly. Instead of locking up Meek, Brinkley could have saved Pennsylvania taxpayers a whole lotta money by foregoing prison- as the DA’s Office, the Probation Department, and the defense attorney requested- and ordering extensive community service of about 500 hours involving numerous obligations including several educational concerts with all the proceeds going to the school district and a hefty agreed upon fine of about $50,000-$100,000 dollars payable to the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Compensation Assistance Program from his multi-million dollar bank account.
3. Mayor Jim Kenney in April of last year wisely noted, “It seems that... [Meek] would be doing more good on the outside than the inside. It points to the need for real criminal justice reform in our country.”
4. Larry Krasner, the wildly popular progressive DA who was elected in 2017 in a landslide of historic proportions in the annals of Philly politics, issued an August 27 press statement, “Following a careful review by my office of... [Meek’s] decade-plus-long involvement in the justice system, I know two things to be true: [Meek] was unfairly treated in a case that exemplifies the destruction caused by excessive supervision, instances of corruption, and unfair processes in our criminal courts.”
5. Following her 1993 election as a judge, Brinkley has filed an incredible and unheard of 23 lawsuits, putting her at or near the top of the list of “the most litigious judges on the Court of Common Pleas.” And to make matters even worse, in connection with one of those lawsuits, she wrote a letter to a potential civil court defendant declaring, “As you know, I am a judge of the Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia and I will not hesitate to proceed against you immediately.” To me, that seems outrageously improper coming from a judge who specifically and unnecessarily identified herself as a judge. That also seems, to me, like not only bullying but unethical bullying as well.
Brinkley was elected to a ten-year judgeship in 1993 and reelected in 2003 and 2013 retention elections, probably because nobody ever pays any attention to boring retention elections. Her next retention election bid is in 2023, a mere four years from now.
Vote against Brinkley in 2023. Also, vote against Trump in 2020. If you don’t, he just might nominate her to sit next to- and have her rule lockstep with- his ideological friend, Clarence Thomas.