Judge must be held accountable for unfair sentencing

(Photos Left) Free Meek Mill busses have been spotted cruising the Philadelphia streets. Photo by Salvatore Patrone. Meek Mill source photo by Just Entertainment from USA via Wikimedia Commons.

Just because the judge who sentenced Meek Mill to prison time for violating the terms of his probation happens to be black, doesn’t make her sentencing decision any less racist. It doesn’t make the sentence any more fair either.

Let’s first deal with race and probation. In the groundbreaking 2014 study, “Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Probation Revocation,” the Urban Institute concluded, “We consistently found disparity in probation revocation outcomes to the disadvantage of black probationers. In all four study sites, black probationers experienced probation revocation at significantly higher rates than white and Hispanic probationers.”

Meek Mill is not the exception, he is the rule.

Onto the fairness, or rather the lack thereof, from Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley’s sentencing of the homegrown rapper to two to four years for violating the terms of his probation.

As reported earlier this month by the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Brinkley has overseen Mill’s case for a decade, since he was arrested at age 19 on drug and gun counts, and has encouraged him to pursue his artistic career while periodically locking him up for violating the terms of his probation.

At one point in 2013, Brinkley ordered Mill to take etiquette lessons so he would know how to act in public and online after he complained in internet posts about the judge, the prosecutor, and his probation officer in less-than-flattering street slang.

In sending Mill to prison, Brinkley cited technical probation violations, including misdemeanor arrests in New York City and St. Louis and providing a urine specimen that showed he was using the prescription narcotic Percocet. She also cited him and his managers for repeatedly scheduling concerts after her Aug. 17 order barring performances outside Philadelphia and Montgomery County.”

The unfairness of this sentence plays out on many levels.

First, the terms of Mill’s probation were set in 2008 stemming from a drugs and gun conviction for which he served eight months. If there isn’t a statute of limitations on probation violations there should be.

Second, Brinkley’s sentence was handed down against the recommendation of the District Attorney’s Office and his probation officer.

Third, popping wheelies in a park and a tussle with an overzealous fan do not merit two years of confinement.

Fourth, neither does Percocet in a urine sample when you tell the judge you were addicted to the drug and in a drug treatment program for your addiction.

Finally, the rapper was doing good things in our community, including co-hosting the annual 76ers Foundation for Youth Gala, which raised over $1 million; a fact the judge was made aware of by 76er co-owner Michael Rubin in a letter pleading for Mill’s freedom.

Generally we would affirm the proposition that the burden rests with the probation violator to make the case for why he should not be sent back to prison. But with Meek Mill, the appearance of fundamental unfairness in the sentencing causes that presumptive burden to shift: the judge must now prove there was no personal bias motivating such an unfair sentence. It is now the judge who must be put on trial.

Immediately following the sentencing, stories began to surface that personal bias may have been at play. Daily News Columnist, Jenice Armstrong catalogues these stories in her piece, “I Want to Interview The Judge in the Meek Mill Case”:

• “[A] New York City lawyer has been claiming that Brinkley asked Mill to record a Boyz II Men ballad called ‘On Bended Knee’ and give her a special shoutout in it.”

• “[An] eyebrow-raising claim that Brinkley suggested that Mill move from the internationally-known Roc Nation, which was founded by Jay-Z, to a local agent ‘who she had a relationship with.’”

At the November 6th sentencing, Judge Brinkley said from the bench that she was done with Meek Mill. Now, as rallies call for her dismissal from the bench, buses and billboards cry out to “Stand With Meek Mill”, and Mill’s lawyers file motions accusing her of “personal bias”, Judge Brinkley is anything but done with Meek Mill.

Armstrong goes on to quote local defense attorney Michael Coard, “In my more than 20 years as a trial lawyer, not only has no judge ever visited any of my clients doing community service, I’ve never even heard of that happening.”

Justice now requires Judge Brinkley take the stand.





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