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Philly court clerk is fired for asking Meek Mill to pay her son's tuition

Philadelphia court administrators on Tuesday fired a court clerk who admitted that during rapper Meek Mill's sentencing hearing last fall she slipped him a note asking for money to pay her son's college tuition.

Rapper Meek Mill, right, arrives at the Criminal Justice Center with his lawyer Brian McMonagle, left, in Philadelphia on Nov. 6, 2017.
Rapper Meek Mill, right, arrives at the Criminal Justice Center with his lawyer Brian McMonagle, left, in Philadelphia on Nov. 6, 2017.Read more( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

A court clerk who admitted to asking the rapper Meek Mill at his sentencing hearing last fall for money to help pay her son's college tuition was fired Tuesday, Philadelphia court administrators said.

Wanda Chavarria, who had been employed by the court system for nearly three decades, told over the weekend that she had hoped Mill would look favorably upon her request because he was from Philadelphia. She insisted that Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley – whom Mill's backers have fiercely criticized for her handling of the rapper's case – was unaware that she had slipped the 30-year-old rapper a letter with her plea shortly before he was sentenced.

Gabriel Roberts, a spokesman for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, said Tuesday that Chavarria had been terminated after a brief review of her conduct during the hearing.

"The Philadelphia courts have always prioritized fairness, impartiality, and the highest ethical standards," Roberts said in a statement. "The courts fully expect all employees to conduct themselves in a principled and professional manner so as not to infringe upon the neutrality of the courtroom."

Chavarria did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Her actions are just the latest instance of alleged misbehavior in a case already rife with accusations of ethical misconduct.

In her November letter, Chavarria lamented her finances and beseeched Mill to help pay for her son's final semester at Virginia Commonwealth University.

"This will probably be my son's last semester at VCU if the tuition isn't paid this year, and unfortunately, with my bad credit, I am unable to secure a loan or co-sign a loan for my son," she wrote. "Anything that you can do is very much appreciated."

According to city payroll records, Chavarria's annual salary was more than $43,296.

She told TMZ that Mill didn't respond to her letter. And hours after she passed it to him, Brinkley sentenced the rapper to two to four years in prison – a decision that unleashed a torrent of protest from critics who viewed her decision as overly harsh.

In the weeks since, Mill's lawyers have appealed the sentence and sought to remove Brinkley from the rapper's case, which she has overseen for more than a decade since his 2007 arrest on drug and gun charges.

They claim the judge has developed an inappropriate interest in Mill's life, citing her 2013 order that Mill take etiquette classes as part of his probation and Brinkley's sudden appearance in 2016 at a homeless shelter to check that he was doing his court-mandated charity work.

They also have alleged that Brinkley, during separate private conferences with the rapper in 2016, urged Mill to record a cover of a Boyz II Men song she liked and to ditch his current management team, Jay-Z's Roc Nation, in favor of a local manager with whom Mill had worked earlier in his career.

Brinkley, bound by judicial rules preventing her from speaking publicly about matters before her court, has not responded to the allegations. Yet on Friday, after weeks of criticism from Mill's lawyers, she unilaterally unsealed a transcript of one of those 2016 conferences in her chambers.

The transcript showed that it was not Brinkley who urged Mill to change his management team during that meeting but rather the probation officer, Treas Underwood, whom the judge had picked for the case.

No transcript was made of a second private meeting that day in which the judge's request for the Boyz II Men song allegedly occurred.

Since his release from prison in 2009, Mill has been found to be in violation of the terms of his probation on four occasions, mostly for failing drug tests and disobeying Brinkley's ban on out-of-state travel without prior approval.

His prison sentence in November came after another failed drug screening and two unrelated arrests — the first in St. Louis during a fight at an airport, and later in New York City for reckless driving.

He remains incarcerated in a state prison in Chester.

Staff writers Mark Fazlollah and Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.