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Meek Mill tour up to a Philadelphia judge

In the world of rap, he's known as Meek Mill, the 25-year-old North Philly street rapper with a growing reputation as the "next big thing."

In the world of rap, he's known as Meek Mill, the 25-year-old North Philly street rapper with a growing reputation as the "next big thing."

Big enough that, according to Meek Mill's tentative calendar, on Wednesday he's supposed to be in Los Angeles - "Hold for Conan?" - his last U.S. stop before ending 2012 in Africa with shows in Lagos, Nigeria and Libreville in Gabon.

But to Philadelphia's criminal justice system, he's just Robert Williams, on probation for a 2008 gun-and-drug conviction for which he needs to periodically appear in Philadelphia courts. And, unless Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley says otherwise at a hearing Monday, Meek Mill's next tour will be limited to the streets of North Philadelphia.

"What's the reason for it when most people keep in touch by Skype?" asked Center City criminal defense lawyer Dennis Cogan, who said he believes Williams is being targeted because of his celebrity status.

On Wednesday, Cogan and associates Gary S. Silver and Susan V. Buck filed a motion asking Brinkley to lift any ban on Meek Mill's travel for concert and other related appearances.

The motions contends the travel ban "could potentially cost [Meek Mill] approximately $500,000 in estimated revenue over the course of the next three weeks and significant loss of momentum in his emerging career."

The motion includes page after page of e-mails that Cogan said inform the court in advance and document every moment Meek Mill is out of the city.

Assistant District Attorney Noel A. DeSantis said she will oppose reinstating Williams' travel permit.

"In my opinion as representative of the Commonwealth, he needs to be becoming more humble."

"He is only a probationer and only one of thousands of probationers in this city," DeSantis added.

Williams was arrested in January 2007 in an incident involving drugs, guns and an assault.

He opted for a nonjury trial and in August 2008 Brinkley found him guilty of assault, four counts involving carrying an unlicensed gun in public and two drug counts.

Williams was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in prison - served eight - and five years probation which is set to end in about three years.

He then resumed his rap career and, according to Silver, gave up the street life in favor of becoming a superstar.

Meek Mill's first album, "Dreams and Nightmares," was released Oct. 30 and he was in New York preparing to fly home for an Oct. 31 meeting with his probation officer when he got caught up in Hurricane Sandy.

According to Silver, Mill and associates and a record company executive decided to drive but were stopped by Philadelphia police late at night after officers claimed to have detected the odor of marijuana coming from their Range Rover.

Though no drugs were found and no one was charged - Cogan said he has informed the city a lawsuit is coming - Williams was ordered to appear before Brinkley on Nov. 19.

According to DeSantis, Williams asked Brinkley to finish his earlier tour rather than cancel appearances in the western U.S. between Nov. 23 and 30.

"He's the one who agreed not to tour after Dec. 16," added DeSantis.

DeSantis said it's time that Williams respect the courts and the break he got from Brinkley: "I mean, he was looking at 5 to 10 years in prison for gun and drug convictions."