Meek Mill sentenced to 90 days of house arrest

Meek Mill (left) with girlfriend Nicki Minaj at a 76ers game at the Wells Fargo Center in January. The rapper, real name Robert Williams, faced a prison term for violating probation on a 2008 drug and gun conviction, but was given 90 days of house arrest at a Friday hearing. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Meek Mill (left) with girlfriend Nicki Minaj at a 76ers game at the Wells Fargo Center in January. The rapper, real name Robert Williams, faced a prison term for violating probation on a 2008 drug and gun conviction, but was given 90 days of house arrest at a Friday hearing. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: February 07, 2016

Sitting in a Philadelphia courtroom Friday after violating probation for the fourth time in eight years, Meek Mill asked a judge, again, for a second chance.

"I believe I can be the bright star you expect me to be," he told Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley.

A month ago, Brinkley threatened to send the North Philadelphia rapper to state prison for violating his probation for a 2008 drug and gun conviction.

But after a 41/2-hour hearing in which a life coach, a charter school executive, a former judge, and an R&B legend testified on Mill's behalf, Brinkley sentenced him to at least 90 days of house arrest instead.

Starting March 1, Mill, whose given name is Robert Williams, must wear an ankle monitoring bracelet and is prohibited from recording, releasing music, or performing.

Mill, 28, dressed in a tailored gray suit and a black tie, testified on his own behalf just before Brinkley's decision. His girlfriend, the rap superstar Nicki Minaj, sat in the front row behind him. She had testified on his behalf at an earlier hearing and pledged to help him follow the rules of his probation.

In a halting voice, Mill apologized for "embarrassing" the court and his probation officer. He said he was planning to "get more life coaching." He said he knew what the stakes were - "everything is riding on the line."

He blamed his probation woes on the struggles of fame - "Early in my career, I was caught up between money and success."

Mill's troubles began when he was convicted for drug possession and carrying a gun without a license in 2008. He served eight months in prison, and then began five years' probation in fall 2009.

Along the way, his rap career exploded.

But prosecutors said Mill repeatedly flouted rules all probationers must follow - checking in with probation officers and getting permission to travel. He has also been reprimanded for including angry lyrics about his case's prosecutor in a song. Eventually, he was sentenced to an additional five months in prison in 2013.

In December, Mill was found to have violated probation again, and was banned from performing or leaving the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania area.

Mill will spend at least 90 days of his house arrest sentenced to community service, but will not be allowed to work with youths. After three months, Brinkley will rule on whether Mill can work and remove his ankle monitor.

The sentence spares Mill from state prison, which his lawyer, Frank DeSimone, said would "decapitate him."

Mill has spent the last months performing community service, feeding the homeless and visiting veterans. On Thursday, Mill visited Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, where school CEO Dave Hardy said the rapper's appearance offered a lesson to students.

Brinkley said she found such appearances "inappropriate."

"How do you say, 'I might be going to state prison,' to the youth you're speaking to?" she asked.

On Friday, the courtroom was packed with Mill's friends, family, and supporters. Life coach Dyana Williams, no relation, said she has been working with the rapper since late January.

Hardy, former Judge Jimmy Moore, and songwriter Kenny Gamble, who is Dyana Williams' ex-husband, also testified on Mill's behalf, assuring Brinkley that the rapper is a changed man.

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961@aubreyjwhelan

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