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Ex-Philly cop says officer lied to put Meek Mill behind bars

Meek Mill's lawyers on Tuesday opened another front on their legal war to free the rapper from prison - this time with new evidence they hope will undermine the his original 2008 conviction on drug and gun charges.

Meek Mill in a July 24, 2017, file photo.
Meek Mill in a July 24, 2017, file photo.Read moreMARGO REED / Staff Photographer

A former Philadelphia police officer accused one of his ex-colleagues Wednesday of lying under oath a decade ago in an effort to put rapper Meek Mill behind bars on drug and gun charges.

In a sworn affidavit, Jerold Gibson disputed the account of Mill's arresting officer, Reggie Graham, the sole witness to testify against the rapper at his 2008 trial.

Graham, Gibson said, falsely accused the then 19-year-old of pointing a gun at police as they attempted to arrest him outside of a suspected drug stash house in Southwest Philadelphia.

Gibson's sworn statement — only the latest to raise questions about Graham's credibility  — formed the basis Wednesday for yet another push by Mill's lawyers to free their client from prison, where he is serving a sentence for a probation violation tied to that underlying arrest.

In a motion filed in Common Pleas Court, they urged Judge Genece E. Brinkley to overturn Mill's conviction and grant him a new trial.

"The guilty verdicts were expressly based on the court crediting Officer Graham's testimony," Mill lawyer Peter Goldberger wrote. "Without Graham's testimony, [he] could not have been convicted on any count."

Goldberger's motion comes two days after the Inquirer and Daily News first identified Graham as one of two dozen officers named on a secret list maintained by the District Attorney's Office of officers' whose credibility had been so tainted that prosecutors have avoided calling them as witnesses.

The filing is one of the first to cite that never-before disclosed roster as ground for a conviction review. Graham was put on the list nine years after he testified against Mill for reasons that remain undisclosed.

In addition to Gibson's affidavit, Mill's lawyers also included a sworn statement from another ex-officer, Jeffrey Walker, who has accused Graham of stealing money during unrelated drug arrests in 2005.

Graham, who retired from the force last year, has declined to comment.

But both Gibson and Walker face potential credibility issues of their own should they be called to testify on Mill's behalf.

Gibson, the former son-in-law of Gov. Tom Corbett, was fired from the Police Department in 2013 and later sentenced to six months to a year in jail, after he was caught in an FBI sting stealing from suspected drug dealers.

Walker pleaded guilty to similar federal theft charges in 2014 and later served as the government's star witness in a case against six of his former colleagues on a police narcotics field unit. But the jury, in acquitting those officers in 2015, largely rejected his testimony.

How much their new accusations against Graham might help Mill  — and how quickly  — remains to be seen.

District Attorney Larry Krasner has said he needs at least three months to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the issue of the two dozen cops named on his office's list of suspect investigators, which was started last year by his predecessor, Seth Williams.

But even if Krasner decided to throw his support behind Mill, the decision to grant Mill a new trial will ultimately lie with Brinkley  — a judge whom the rapper's backers have spent months tarring with accusations of ethical improprieties while petitioning the court to remove her from the case.

It was Brinkley who in 2008 originally sentenced Mill based largely on Graham's testimony.

He testified that he had watched Mill sell what was later determined to be crack cocaine and that a confidential informant later made another purchase from the rapper at a nearby house in Southwest Philadelphia.

Those assertions were used to obtain a search warrant the next day, but when officers showed up at the house, Graham said, Mill pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it in their direction.

At his trial, Mill did not deny having the firearm but said he never pointed it at anyone  — a claim Gibson backed up in his affidavit.

"I never saw Mr. Williams lift his gun and point it," he said. "I observed Mr. Williams lift the gun out of his waistband in a motion that suggested he was trying to discard the gun."

Gibson and Walker also supported Mill's allegation that Graham and other officers beat him during his arrest. That accusation prompted an Internal Affairs investigation against Graham at the time, although the results of that decade-old probe were unavailable Wednesday.

Walker said in his affidavit that he recalled Graham bragging years later that he had "arrested that rapper boy Meek Mill" and "whooped his ass."

Still, at the time, Graham's testimony convinced Brinkley of Mill's guilt. She convicted the rapper of drug possession, firearms violations, and simple assault. He served five months in jail.

But his failure to comply with the terms of his probation since his release has repeatedly brought Mill back into Brinkley's court – most recently in November when she sent him back to prison for two to four years.

Mill's lawyers continue to appeal that sentence at Superior Court.

Should they prevail in their new effort to overturn his conviction, the attorneys said Wednesday, they would seek his immediate release.