DRESSED IN a black suit, dark shirt and black tie, Philly rapper Meek Mill took the witness stand in a federal courtroom yesterday afternoon. Not as the defendant. As the plaintiff.
He told a jury of four men and four women that he was wronged by Philly cops on Oct. 31, 2012, when the cops pulled him over in his Range Rover, then cuffed and detained him for hours.
Mill, 26, whose real name is Robert Williams, is suing the city, police Officer Alvin Outlaw and ex-cop Andre Boyer. He contends Outlaw and Boyer violated his civil rights that night by unjustly stopping and searching his vehicle and by falsely imprisoning him.
That Halloween 2012 night was supposed to be celebratory for him. His debut album, "Dreams & Nightmares," had just been released. Earlier that day, he was in New York. He had a release party that night in Atlanta, where he was supposed to perform. But because of Hurricane Sandy, he couldn't get a flight out of New York, so he and his crew decided to drive to Philly to catch a chartered jet to Atlanta.
While in Philly, Mill planned to pick up a few friends in North Philadelphia. "I always make sure I pick up my friends so they can experience" novelties like a 12-seater jet, he testified.
But Mill said that as he was driving his Range Rover on Girard Avenue near 10th Street, a police vehicle put its siren on, pulling him over. After one of his three male passengers, Dimitri Jacques, an off-duty Fort Lauderdale, Fla., narcotics cop, indicated he had a gun on him, Mill said he and Jacques were asked to get out of the SUV. (Jacques was legally allowed to carry his gun, cops determined.)
Mill said that while he was on the sidewalk, Boyer patted him down. Asked by one of his two attorneys, Dennis Cogan, how he felt, Mill said he was upset and implied that he was stopped because of his race. "In that kind of neighborhood, four black males in a car. I'm always being asked, 'Can I be searched?' - when no crime was committed."
Armando Brigandi, divisional deputy city solicitor in the city's Law Department, which is representing the city, Boyer and Outlaw, said in his opening statement that jurors will have to decide: "Were these police officers justified in searching Mr. Williams' [Mill's] car and detaining him?"
He said Boyer, Outlaw and another cop, Michael Vargas, stopped Mill's black Range Rover because it had "very heavily tinted windows," which is a traffic violation. He said Outlaw approached the SUV and told those inside: "Yo, I can smell weed in the car. What's going on?"
After Mill declined to consent to a search of his SUV, the cops called in a narcotics dog. The dog smelled drugs, which gave the cops probable cause to search the vehicle, Brigandi said.
Cogan, in his opening statement, said that Mill, at most, should have gotten a traffic ticket for the tinted windows, then been allowed to move on.
Cogan said a crowd had gathered, recognizing Mill. He contended the cops falsely claimed to have smelled marijuana in the vehicle. After the SUV was taken elsewhere to be searched, no drugs were found. Mill and his companions were arrested, taken in cuffs to the 22nd Police District, at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, and detained for about 10 hours. They were not charged with anything.
Mill testified that he missed his Atlanta release party. He contends he had to forfeit his $39,000 appearance fee for the party and lost an additional $22,500 on his chartered-jet cancellation.
He testified that while cuffed in the police district, he thought about how "my life could be potentially over for something I didn't do. . . . I could lose all my endorsements. . . . I missed the show. . . . My state of mind was just a lot of fans were waiting to see me." He said he thought to himself: "They won't really pay for you again."