Two years before arresting the rapper Meek Mill on drug and gun charges, then-Philadelphia Police Officer Reginald Graham stole money in a drug bust and later lied to the FBI about the theft, according to a confidential internal police report obtained by the Inquirer and Daily News.
The 2016 Internal Affairs report, which also says Graham failed an FBI polygraph test, is the latest revelation of false statements by Graham – the sole police witness to testify against Mill in the 2007 case that is the original source of the rapper’s current legal problems. Six weeks ago, Mill’s attorneys filed a court affidavit in which former Officer Jerold Gibson, who participated in Mill’s arrest, accused Graham of lying under oath at the rapper’s trial.
The Internal Affairs report, which focuses on Graham’s actions during and after a 2005 drug raid in Overbrook, is certain to become part of Mill’s ongoing effort to win a new trial. In a recent court pleading, Mill’s attorneys noted that Graham was on a District Attorney’s Office list of current and former police officers deemed untrustworthy and who should not be used as witnesses without approval from top supervisors in the prosecutor’s office.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a court filing last week that his office was not opposed to Mill’s release from prison on bail. He said there was “a strong showing of likelihood of [Mill’s] conviction being reversed” in whole or part.
Mill, 30, is being held in a state penitentiary in Chester for violating probation, stemming from the 2007 arrest.
Graham, 47, was the lead officer in Mill’s arrest and the Overbrook raid. In each, he filed for the warrants, conducted field testing of seized drugs, and managed the confidential informant said to have provided key information leading to the busts.
Graham, who now lives in Florida, was not charged with a crime. Both the U.S. attorney and the district attorney declined to prosecute him. He did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Reached by phone last month, he declined to discuss the Overbrook raid.
Internal Affairs findings in regard to Graham and the Overbrook raid are important because they establish that Graham engaged in corrupt behavior well before Mill’s 2007 arrest. That bolsters Mill’s argument that Graham lied about the circumstances in his arrest, increasing the rapper’s chances of reversing his conviction.
The Internal Affairs report is a byproduct of a federal investigation of the city’s Narcotics Field Unit, where Graham worked for several years. That investigation took off in 2013 when an FBI sting operation caught Officer Jeffrey Walker of the unit stealing and breaking into a house. Walker turned government witness against six other members of the narcotics unit, who were indicted on corruption charges and acquitted.
As a government informant, Walker also provided information about the Overbrook raid, in which he participated with Graham.
Graham led the raid on Jan. 21, 2005, which, he later testified, followed an informant’s tip that a large-scale cocaine ring was operating out of a home in the 7400 block of Brockton Road. One person was arrested, and a pound of cocaine and a large amount of money were seized from the house.
Walker, 49, told the FBI that he and Graham had also found money in the trunk of a car that had been seized at the home. The pair stole some of the money, Walker told agents.
Walker, in a series of interviews with the Inquirer and Daily News, said that he and Graham saw the car, a silver Mercury, at the narcotics unit with the trunk open. Inside was a black satchel bag stuffed with money, Walker said.
“Reggie said, ‘Grab some,’ ” Walker said, explaining that he took “chunks” of cash, one bundle for himself and another that he handed to Graham.
After pocketing the money — how much, he wasn’t sure — Walker said he and Graham gave the satchel and remaining cash to other narcotics officers as evidence.
Based on Walker’s claims, the FBI questioned Graham about the money, according to the Internal Affairs report.
“Graham denied that he ever took money on the Brockton Road job or any other job,” the document said, using the police vernacular for raids.
In May 2014, the report said, Graham agreed to be polygraphed by the FBI about the theft allegation. “He failed” the lie detector test, the Internal Affairs report said.
Afterward, “Graham admitted that he lied,” said the report.
The report did not detail how much money was stolen, but listed the total amount seized in the raid as $32,252.
Shortly after the Internal Affairs report was completed, the Police Board of Inquiry held a trial-like review of the allegations against Graham. Three witnesses appeared for Graham, including his pastor.
Graham never showed. He had completed his retirement paperwork and quietly left the department.
The police board then voted to fire him.
Since finishing his 3½-year federal prison sentence, Walker has been helping defense attorneys challenge convictions of clients who say they were wrongly arrested by him and other narcotics officers. He also has been cooperating with Mill’s legal team in its effort to overturn the rapper’s conviction.
In that arrest, Graham testified that he and other narcotics officers were preparing to raid a drug house in the West Passyunk section of the city, where one of Mill’s relatives lived. Mill was outside the house when the drug agents arrived. Graham said Mill pointed a gun at him, then tried to run from police. He has also testified that Mill was selling drugs at the house. Mill acknowledged that he had a gun but insisted that he never pointed it at police. He denied selling drugs.
The case landed before Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley, who found Mill guilty in 2008.
Since then, Brinkley repeatedly has found that Mill violated his probation. Last fall, she sent in him to prison for two years for his latest violation. By challenging the legality of the original arrest, Mill’s lawyer hopes to win a new trial.