It is one of the boldest accusations made by rapper Meek Mill's lawyers in his bitter public feud with Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley: that she urged him in a private meeting two years ago to ditch his current management team, and that his refusal might have played a part in her decision last year to send him back to prison.
Brinkley has steadfastly declined to respond to that claim, and the details of the closed-door meeting had remained sealed since 2016. But late Friday, hours after an Inquirer and Daily News report detailed several ethical questions surrounding Mill's case, the judge took the unusual step of unilaterally unsealing that transcript.
The newly released document shows no evidence that Brinkley made any demands about Mill's management during the discussion – in fact, she said it wasn't up to her to decide whom Mill hired. "I don't want the record to suggest who your management is or not," the judge said, according to the transcript.
Instead, it was two other women — Mill's probation officer at the time, Treas Underwood, and to a lesser extent then-Assistant District Attorney Noel DeSantis — who repeatedly criticized his current management company, Jay-Z's Roc Nation.
They believed that the firm was pitting the rapper against the court and leading him into situations in which he continued to violate the terms of his probation. They urged him to return to Philadelphia-based manager Charles "Charlie Mack" Alston, who had worked with him earlier in his career and had received high praise – at times from the judge — for keeping Mill in compliance with court demands.
Brinkley's apparent silence on the subject contradicts one of the central planks in Mill's efforts to remove her from his case and appeal her November decision to send him back to prison. The rapper's lawyers argue that she has become "obsessed" with him during the decade she has overseen his probation for a 2007 drug and gun arrest, and has sought to inappropriately inject herself into his life, including ordering him at one point to take etiquette classes and even showing up at a homeless shelter to make sure he was doing his court-mandated charity work.
Her alleged attempt to pick his manager was an example of such inappropriate behavior, they have maintained.
After reviewing the transcript Monday, Mill lawyer Joe Tacopina said it hardly mattered whether Brinkley had made a demand for Mill to change managers or whether it had been Underwood, the probation officer whom the judge hand-picked to handle Mill's case. Either way, Tacopina said, Mill left the meeting feeling as if the judge was pressuring him to make that move.
"You've got a person picked by the judge saying, 'Do this,'" the lawyer said. "To me, it's the same thing as its coming out of her mouth."
According to the 69-page transcript, the Feb. 5, 2016, meeting was held at the rapper's request. Mill, whose legal name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, was in court on another probation violation, and the judge was weighing an appropriate punishment.
She had refused similar requests from Mill to meet in private several times in the past, but she later explained that she decided to grant this one because she thought Mill was concerned about security if the conversation took place in open court.
Mill, his probation officer, the prosecutor, and his then-lawyer Frank DeSimone followed Brinkley to her chambers, where the rapper issued a tearful apology for past mistakes and effusive praise for the positive influence he said Brinkley had had in his life.
"Before I came in front of you, I was a drug dealer, carried a gun every day," he told Brinkley, according to the transcript. "You were my pit stop. I believe you saved my life."
But Underwood, the probation officer; and DeSantis, the prosecutor, voiced strong opinions on the influence they believed Mill's management team was having on his failure to comply with the requirements of his court supervision, including Brinkley's ban on out-of-state travel without prior approval.
Roc Nation, Underwood said at one point, only viewed Mill "as a dollar sign" and had been pitting him against the court, according to the transcript. She urged Mill to reestablish his relationship with Alston, whom she credited with keeping the rapper on track with his probation terms.
"Those are the guys that are a problem for you. Because they don't understand," Underwood said of Roc Nation's representatives. "This is what the judge wants. The judge's mission."
She added later: "Charlie Mack is very, very good for you … What I like about Charlie, he is not invested in Meek Mills. He is invested in Robert Williams. He is invested in your life as a man."
Contacted Monday, both Underwood and DeSantis declined to discuss their comments at the in-chambers meeting.
DeSimone, Mill's then-lawyer, appeared to concur with their assessment of Mack. He chimed in on several occasions, according to the transcript, to praise the effect the manager had on his client's life.
Brinkley remained largely silent on the matter at the time. But she made her position clear at a hearing two months later.
"It seemed as if while Mr. Mack was representing him there were fewer problems with the probation department, but I think I said on the record, 'Mr. Williams chooses who he wants for his management,'" she said, according to a transcript of the April 2016 hearing. "It doesn't really matter who his management is … what matters is that the defendant remain in compliance.'"
While Brinkley may not have weighed in on the management discussion during the February 2016 meeting, Tacopina said Monday, she didn't put a stop to what he described as the inappropriate advocacy from Underwood and DeSantis. The defense lawyer also pointed to other statements Brinkley had made at prior hearings that echoed Underwood's concerns.
"He didn't have no problems with the other manager," the judge said of Mack, according to transcripts of a Dec. 17, 2012, hearing in her court. At the same hearing, she addressed Mill's new team: "I don't know when you all got involved, but he didn't have none of these problems."
Tacopina has cited other alleged inappropriate requests by Brinkley in seeking her removal from the case, most notably one that he says occurred the same day as the in-chambers conference.
Pulling aside Mill and his then-girlfriend, the rapper Nicki Minaj, after the hearing, Tacopina said, Brinkley urged Mill to record a cover of a Boyz II Men song she liked – "On Bended Knee" – and to mention her name in it.