Meek Mill's prison sentence draws outrage, sparking a criminal justice debate

Story highlights

  • Meek Mill was sentenced to two-four years in prison on Monday
  • His attorney accused the judge of being "enamored" with the rapper and treating him unfairly

(CNN)Meek Mill was arrested for popping wheelies on his dirt bike and for getting into a fight earlier this year, and now the rapper could spend two to four years in state prison because those arrests violated his probation from a 2008 gun and drug case.

But the case has moved beyond the Pennsylvania courtroom. Many hip-hop artists including Jay Z, T.I., Rick Ross and Nipsey Hussle have rallied behind the rapper, and his sentence sparked a new debate about criminal justice reform.
Mill was also sentenced one day before Philadelphia elected Larry Krasner, a progressive Democrat and civil rights attorney who vowed a "movement" for criminal justice reform, to be its next district attorney.
    Mill's attorney told CNN that he plans to appeal the sentence and accused Philadelphia judge Genece E. Brinkley, who has overseen Mill's case for years, of being "enamored" with the rapper and taking "a personal interest in the case."
    "(Meek's) frustrated, really frustrated and knows he's being treated different than anyone else," Mill's attorney Joe Tacopina told CNN in a phone interview Thursday. "If his name was John Smith, he wouldn't be in jail and he certainly wouldn't be on probation."
    "He's been on probation for nearly 10 years. Nobody goes on probation for 10 years," Tacopina added. He criticized Brinkley for extending Mill's initial five-year probation sentence following various violations.
    Brinkley's office did not respond to a request for comment, but referred CNN's request to Gabriel Roberts, a spokesman for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. He told CNN in a phone interview Thursday that "because this matter is subject to future litigation, there will be no comment at this time."
    Mill is signed to Jay Z's label Roc Nation. The label urged fans of the rapper to sign the Change.org petition addressed to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf asking the state to reevaluate his sentence.
    In a statement provided to CNN by Roc Nation on Thursday, Jay Z slammed the sentence, calling it "unjust and heavy handed."
    "The sentence handed down by the judge -- against the recommendation of the assistant district attorney and probation officer -- is unjust and heavy handed," he said. "We will always stand by and support Meek Mill, both as he attempts to right this wrongful sentence and then in returning to his musical career."
    Jay Z also voiced his support for Mill at his 4:44 show in Dallas on Tuesday.
    "I gotta say something about a young man named Meek Mill," Jay Z said. "He caught a charge, he was about 19, he's 30 now, he's been on probation 11 years. F------ 11 years. Now he got to do two to four years because he got arrested being on a bike popping a f------ wheelie."

    A post shared by TIP (@troubleman31) on

    T.I., who shared a message of encouragement for Mill, criticized the sentence in several posts and shared this meme on Instagram, including a picture of a dumbfounded Will Smith: "When you realize Meek got more jail time for riding a dirt bike than a cop would for shooting an unarmed African American."
    "To be yung Blac and successful YOU ENEMY NUMBER 1. HOLD YO HEAD @MeekMill streets chose u," Nipsey Hussle, who has worked with Mill, tweeted.

    What happened

    Mill's first arrest this year came in March after he was involved in a fight at a St. Louis airport and the second came in August when he was arrested in New York for reckless endangerment for popping wheelies on his dirt bike and not wearing a helmet.
    The rapper appeared in court on Monday after the pair of arrests and was sentenced to two to four years in state prison by Brinkley, who cited a failed drug test and the rapper's noncompliance with a court order restricting his travel.