Superior Court ruled Wednesday that Meek Mill’s decade-old conviction on gun and drug charges should be vacated, the most significant step in the rapper’s long fight to overturn a case that prosecutors have conceded was riddled with problems.
The decision, in an 18-page opinion signed by President Judge Jack A. Panella, does not clear every hurdle for the Philadelphia-born Mill, 32. Technically, he is entitled to a new trial on those charges if the District Attorney’s Office decides to pursue them.
District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office declined to say whether it planned to retry Mill, but prosecutors made clear at a hearing this month that they had significant questions about the credibility of Mill’s arresting officer, now-retired Police Officer Reginald Graham, and the evidence used to convict Mill.
And Superior Court said prosecutors had stated in court documents that they did not believe the trial testimony of Graham — the only witness to take the stand — and would “never again call Graham” to court.
Should prosecutors decline to pursue a retrial, Mill’s long entanglement with the Philadelphia criminal justice system would be over.
In a statement Wednesday, Mill said: “The past 11 years have been mentally and emotionally challenging, but I’m ecstatic that justice prevailed.” He also sent two tweets shortly after the opinion was issued.
Mill and his legal team have been fighting to overturn his conviction since 2017, when he was ordered by Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley to serve two to four years in prison for probation violations.
His case generated widespread outcry from celebrities, fans, and reform advocates who called it an example of a criminal-justice system that needed to be changed. They directed particular scorn toward Brinkley, accusing her of ethical improprieties and seeking to have her removed from the case. Brinkley denied the allegations and defended her stewardship of the proceedings.
Superior Court ruled Wednesday that the trial — should prosecutors seek one — would take place before a new judge. Cases sent back to lower courts for new proceedings are routinely assigned to new judges, the jurists wrote.
Brinkley has not commented on the case beyond what she has said in the courtroom and court documents. Her lawyer, A. Charles Peruto Jr., said Wednesday that she was comfortable with the appellate court’s decision and did not view it as a rebuke of her decision last year to deny Mill a new trial.
As for the allegations of bias against Mill — claims that Krasner’s office supported in court documents, citing Brinkley’s secretly visiting a homeless shelter where she had ordered Mill to serve food — Peruto said Brinkley’s critics have “never, ever presented a scintilla of credible evidence” to support that argument.
Mill has been free on bail while fighting his appeal, and has founded the REFORM Alliance, an organization dedicated to changing the criminal justice system.
One of his biggest supporters, 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, said in a statement Wednesday: “Time after time, I’ve watched the criminal justice system railroad Meek, but through it all, he’s handled this adversity with extraordinary strength and poise.”
Rubin and Mill both said they would continue to pursue changes to the system.
Mill said: “Unfortunately, millions of people are dealing with similar issues in our country and don’t have the resources to fight back like I did.”
By Chris Palmer