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Controversial Meek Mill judge will remain on his case, another judge rules

Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer

Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 4:03 PM

Rapper Meek Mill leaves the Criminal Justice Center after a hearing on whether Judge Brinkley should be removed from hearing his appeal, in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 24, 2018.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley, who has overseen the criminal case of the Philadelphia-born rapper Meek Mill for a decade and who made international headlines last year when she sent him to prison, will remain on the case during his appeals, another Philadelphia judge ruled Wednesday.

Meek Mill exits the Criminal Justice Center, after a hearing on whether Judge Brinkley should be removed from hearing MillÕs appeal, in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 24, 2018. JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Lawyer Brian J. McMonagle exits the Criminal Justice Center, after a hearing on whether Judge Brinkley should be removed from hearing Meek MillÕs appeal, in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 24, 2018. JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Meek Mill arrives at the Criminal Justice Center, for a hearing on whether Judge Brinkley should be removed from hearing MillÕs appeal, in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 30, 2018. JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: Meek Mill leaves Criminal Justice Center after brief hearing

Saying he lacked the jurisdiction to remove from the case a fellow judge who sits on the same bench, Common Pleas Court Judge Leon W. Tucker denied the request from the rapper’s attorneys to have Brinkley ousted.

“We have a judge that wears the same robe that I wear, that has not recused herself and has not disqualified herself,” Tucker said in rejecting the lawyers’ arguments that Brinkley should be removed. “I don’t have the jurisdiction to do that. It’s as simple as that.”

Attorneys for the rapper argued during the hearing that Brinkley should be replaced because she has been unfair to their client by refusing to grant him a new trial even though the District Attorney’s Office has said it does not oppose one. The lawyers also questioned Brinkley’s fitness to preside because, they said, she stated in a federal lawsuit she filed last month in Philadelphia as her own attorney that as a result of a car accident, she was suffering mental defects and eye trauma that were affecting her ability to do her job.

In her April 23 lawsuit against an Arizona woman and a man living on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, she said that while she was vacationing on the island two years ago, she was in an accident that involved the two and suffered from “severe head trauma.” The suit said she also had a “concussion, dizziness, headaches, holes and tears in retina of both eyes, trauma to both hands, neck pain, lumbar spine strain and sprain, knee sprain and pain, and other orthopedic and neurological injuries.”

The federal court in Philadelphia ordered the case transferred to Arizona, but no other action has been taken. The two defendants could not be reached for comment.

Brinkley’s personal attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., said Wednesday that Brinkley had taken some time off from work after the accident, using vacation and personal time, but “it does not affect her ability to sit” on the bench.

Mill’s defense attorneys, led by Brian McMonagle, also noted Wednesday that Brinkley had claimed in an earlier lawsuit to have suffered trauma after finding a hotel housekeeper’s name tag in a hotel bed. In 2014 she filed a personal injury claim against the Hotel Hershey in Dauphin County for “intense trauma” she says she endured for months after finding the name tag. That case, in which she also served as her own attorney, was settled for an undisclosed sum. Hershey declined to comment.

Brinkley has declined repeated requests for comment on her lawsuits. Since her election in 1993, Brinkley, who presides primarily over criminal cases, has filed at least 20 lawsuits, making her one of the most litigious judges in recent Common Pleas Court history.

“If we are to take her at her word, she has disqualified herself from this case,” said McMonagle, who asked Tucker to reassign the case to Common Pleas Court President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper.

Tucker, the supervising judge of the court’s criminal division, responded that Brinkley can be disqualified only by the state Supreme Court. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has refused to remove her from the case,” he said. “For whatever reason, you are asking me to do what the Supreme Court has not done.”

McMonagle, at times raising his voice and then apologizing for it, stressed that in nearly 2,000 similar cases in which new trials were sought and were unopposed by the District Attorney’s Office, they were granted.

The Mill case is being treated differently only due to Brinkley’s involvement, McMonagle and co-counsel Joe Tacopina told reporters after the hearing. “That speaks volumes of her intentions, of her fundamental fairness,” Tacopina said. “We are going to seek immediate emergency relief before the Supreme Court for these reasons.”

McMonagle added: “Why is ours being treated differently? I think it’s transparent, I think it’s obvious, and the time has come to end it, and we’re going to end it.”

Two prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office remained silent for much of the hearing, having told the court that they agree that Mill should get a new trial. Although both the prosecution and defense agree on that issue, Brinkley last month refused the request for a new trial.

Mill was convicted on gun and drug charges in 2008, and has been on probation for much of the time since. Last fall, Brinkley sentenced him to two to four years in state prison, citing probation violations. The state Supreme Court ordered him released on bail in April.

An evidentiary hearing before Brinkley is scheduled for June 18, but Mill’s attorneys said they hope the Supreme Court will remove her before then.

The rapper’s attorneys believe that he was framed by former Philadelphia Police Officer Reginald Graham, who arrested him, and that a new trial should result. Graham, the only witness to testify at the 2008 nonjury trial, claimed that Mill had pointed a gun at him while he was trying to arrest the then-19-year-old for selling drugs in Southwest Philadelphia. But recently, two other officers have come forward with sworn affidavits claiming that Graham lied.

Graham — who retired from the force last year and has never been charged with a crime — was identified in February by the Inquirer and Daily News as one of two dozen officers on a secret list compiled by the District Attorney’s Office of cops the office would not call to testify. He was accused of stealing drug bust money, lying to the FBI about it, and failing an FBI polygraph test.

Staff writer Mark Fazlollah contributed to this article.

Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer

Read full story: Controversial Meek Mill judge will remain on his case, another judge rules

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