A Philadelphia judge on Monday sentenced the rapper Meek Mill to two to four years in prison for again violating his probation from a 2008 drug and gun case, putting his career on hold for at least the next two years.
The 30-year-old, Philadelphia-born Mill seemed stunned at the sentence from Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley, as were the dozen or so supporters who gasped at her decision.
"I gave you break after break, and you basically just thumbed your nose at this court," Brinkley told Mill. She said Mill's sentence would be served in state prison, where he would be eligible for state parole supervision after two years.
"Then I'll be done with you," Brinkley added.
The judge ordered Mill immediately taken into custody, and he quickly started removing his gold watch and other personal items and handing them to his lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, before sheriff's deputies escorted him from the courtroom.
McMonagle, who earlier this year represented Bill Cosby in his sexual assault trial, declined to comment on the hearing or Brinkley's decision. When asked whether he would appeal the sentence, he shot back: "You're godd—ed right I am."
Before he was sentenced, Mill addressed the judge for 40 minutes, pleading for mercy and insisting that his "technical probation violations" were mistakes and not disrespect.
"I'm human. I'm not perfect," Mill told Brinkley. "I'm asking for mercy. You gave me the ladder to do what I have to do to prevail in my struggle. I made it this far, I can't really go back and start over."
Brinkley, 61, a city judge since 1993, has overseen Mill's case since the beginning, dealing with the rapper using a mix of exasperation and encouragement, memorably ordering him to take etiquette lessons in 2013 after he complained about the judge, prosecutor and probation officer in less-than-flattering street slang in internet posts, so he would know how to act in public and online.
On Monday, however, Brinkley had clearly had enough. Mill was twice arrested this year and went into treatment for addiction to the prescription narcotic Percocet. She also cited him and his managers for repeatedly scheduling concerts after her Aug. 17 order barring performances outside of Philadelphia or Montgomery County.
One such performance was set for Nov. 4 at Syracuse University in New York, then was canceled 1½ weeks before. Disappointed students mounted a phone and email campaign to try to persuade Brinkley to allow Mill to perform.
Brinkley also recounted visiting Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia after she ordered Mill to feed the homeless at the church as community service. She said she visited one night and found him not feeding the homeless, but sorting clothing.
"It was only when you realized that I came there to check on you that you decided to serve meals," Brinkley said.
Monday's hearing was the first before Brinkley where neither the city prosecutor nor Mill's probation officer recommended jail time.
Born in South Philadelphia, Mill grew up around North Philly; his father was murdered when he was 5. He's infused his music with his experiences growing up in a poor, single-parent home. His career took off after his 2009 release from prison.
His third album, Wins and Losses, climbed quickly to No. 3 on Billboard's albums chart after its release this summer. Its 2015 predecessor, Dreams Worth More Than Money, entered the charts at No. 1. Almost as much attention has been given to his two-year romance with the singer-songwriter Nicki Minaj, which ended this year.
In October, Mill pleaded guilty in Manhattan to reckless driving charges after he was arrested for doing wheelies and other stunts on a dirt bike on city streets and then posting video of his performance online.
He was also arrested in March for fighting at a St. Louis airport — although those charges were dropped after he agreed to perform community service for the Veterans Association in Philadelphia.
On Monday, McMonagle argued that both incidents were part of the hazards faced by celebrities. The St. Louis incident, McMonagle said, was precipitated by an airport worker who was miffed because Mill would not pose for a picture. That worker was later fired and is being criminally prosecuted, McMonagle said.
The Manhattan incident was a stunt that someone else captured on video and posted online. In both cases, McMonagle told the judge, authorities downgraded the charges and allowed Mill to enter a pretrial diversion program with community service.
McMonagle outlined Mill's childhood, his father murdered in South Philadelphia, being raised by a working mother and lured by the street life.
"He wasn't supposed to be here," McMonagle said, adding that Mill has become a good father and the financial support of his mother, sister and other relatives as well as those who work for him.
The Philadelphia case against Robert Williams dates to 2008, when Williams was 19 and before his incarnation as Meek Mill.
It was a routine drug and gun matter and he was convicted, served eight months in prison, and began five years' probation in the fall of 2009.
Since then, Mill's problems following the rules that apply to all probationers – reporting to a probation officer and getting prior approval for out-of-town travel – have earned him an additional five months in prison in 2013 and extended his probation for nearly a decade.
The last time Mill was before Brinkley was in February 2016, for violating his probation for the fourth time in eight years. Brinkley put Mill, who was accompanied by Minaj, on 90 days of house arrest and ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring anklet.
EDITORS' NOTE: The year when Genece E. Brinkley became a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge was incorrectly reported in an earlier online version of this article.