Lawyer Joe Tacopina talks Meek Mill's first meal out, next legal steps, and the impact of his case
“He was bullied by the system and bullied by a judge who was using his fame against him. He was not treated like everybody else.”
“He’s out and he’s never going back in. That’s the most important thing,” Meek Mill’s lead lawyer Joseph Tacopina said early Thursday morning from his hotel room in Italy.
Tacopina has been diligent the past five months to secure a release for Meek who had to serve five months of a two-to-four year prison sentence on a parole violation. Meek was arrested in New York last summer for popping a wheelie on a dirt bike in the city streets. From there, it was a Philadelphia slugfest akin to a Rocky movie finale scene: Meek, his legal team, his influential friends and, of course, his fans vs. Judge Genece Brinkley. Tacopina and others have accused her of bias against Meek and levied accusations of her making outlandish requests of the rap superstar from shouting her out in music to getting rid of his Roc Nation management team.
But Brinkley has been steadfast and not acquiesced to the demands of the people who protested for Meek or even the Supreme Court in Philadelphia who have politely urged her to recuse herself from the case.
Regardless, Meek was released on bail on Monday and is cleared to remain on bail until all his legal proceedings are done. In a moment that caught the attention of the world, Meek, one of Rick Ross’ MMG cornerstone artists, headed straight to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to ring the Liberty Bell at the 76ers playoff game against the Miami Heat.
Tacopina spoke exclusively with REVOLT TV this morning to talk about Meek’s first meal out, next legal steps, and why people have rallied around him.
Congratulations on this milestone. I know Meek still has a long way to go, but he’s out and that’s a big step. Obviously it was sort of a ‘justice delayed, but not denied’ moment. He should have been out a long time ago. Quite frankly, he should have never been charged in this case because the whole case is built on the perjurious testimony of a lying police officer. But [Meek] really went through something no one should have to go through, his original conviction based on a lying and corrupt officer Reginald Graham. Being sentenced to a two-to-four 2022 on a technical probation violation where the D.A. and the probation officer asked for no jail time on, it’s been a haul. But obviously a great sense of relief the other day when I knew he was finally getting out. It’s also something that was important to Meek to help the less fortunate individuals who are in jail in those situations. The voice of the voiceless. People who don’t have the power, the connections, the fame, [the] money to fight the way Meek was able to. It shines a light on the need to reform in the justice system.
I saw on Dateline NBC that Meek called to retire the hashtag #FreeMeek and instead start using the hashtag #JusticeReform. Well, Meek’s free now so we don’t need that hashtag, but justice reform is a long way in coming. We do need that hashtag because obviously a lot has to be done. This was just one battle that we won. But we still have a war to fight and the war is to make sure that people aren’t stalked and trampled on by a system that unfortunately targets minorities who have really non-violent technical violations in probation that [then] cause the jails to be filled up with people [who] are not even in jail, again, for committing a crime. It’s unfortunate because, again, people who get abused by the system oftentimes don’t have the ability to fight. Meek’s whole mantra here is to make sure a light is shined on that system. The new District Attorney is somebody that’s very honorable, who ran his campaign and practiced law before he became District Attorney in fighting civil rights violations and fighting for reform. So I guess we’re in good hands right now.
Why are so many people so enthralled with Meek’s plight in your opinion? I think it’s the perfect storm of notoriety that happened in Meek’s case. You have a celebrity, really, he’s a top-notch entertainer who had real life problems. He didn’t grow up fortunate. Meek was arrested on the same block where his father was killed when he was five years old. And shot. It’s a situation where he grew up in a way that was incredibly difficult, that most people in the world don’t understand. He came out of it. To rise against adversity against all odds. You have someone that is a proud member of the African-American race, who is someone who really stood up not only for himself, but for other minorities who have been bullied by the system. Make no mistake, [Meek] was bullied by the system and bullied by a judge who was using his fame against him. He was not treated like everybody else. He was treated much more harshly than anybody else.
Having friends like Joel Embiid and Kevin Hart and James Harden [and], of course, Mike Rubin, the 76ers co-owner who really is what a real friend is supposed to be about. Someone who is there when you really need them. Not just someone who is there when the good times are happening, but in a time of need. All these great guys. Robert Kraft obviously came to see him because I think he appreciates who Meek is and what’s happening. There are people out there who have conscience, yhat have a moral pulse and when people are getting treated so unfairly, they took a stand. And Meek’s case was one to take a stand against because is had so much visibility. When people went to see him, it made the news. Markelle Fultz, the Governor or Pennsylvania, the Mayor or Philadelphia. I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve never seen a governor or mayor come out on behalf of one of my clients and say they are being treated unfairly. When the whole world is screaming injustice and only one person is saying ‘Yo, this is justice,’ meaning the judge, you know something is wrong.
Tell me about what it took to get Meek to the [76ers] game when he came out prison? Well, that was made a hell of lot easier because Mike Rubin has a helicopter. If Mike didn’t have a helicopter, he probably wouldn’t had made it. Brian McMonagle, my co-council, was dogged in waiting for that order to sign. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. Got the order signed. Had it rushed over to the warden at the jail. The procedure was pretty quick and the jail did what they had to do to get [Meek] out. With that being said, Mike got him to the helicopter in a few short minutes. And what takes a hour-and-a-half normally by car, takes 10 minutes to do by helicopter. He was able to get there, ring that bell, to have what seemed like the whole city of Philadelphia there to embrace him. It was a special moment for him. One that was well-deserved. To have his son there. It was great.
What did Meek have as his first meal on his first day out? He had some salmon. He went to a great restaurant after the [Sixers] game. I been in the jail with him a dozen times, getting the food from the machines. I gotta tell you, my dogs wouldn’t want to eat half the stuff he had to eat in the jail.
Many people think Meek’s free and clear now, but that’s not the case. There are still some legal issues to be resolved. Can you break down the next steps? The next steps are we’re still waiting on some ruling from the Supreme Court. Of course, we still have a hearing on the post-conviction release motion that we made to have his conviction overturned and dismissed. And that’s based on the testimony of one police officer. The only cop to testify against him at his trial. But here’s the important part of that: the District Attorney agrees his conviction needs to be overturned. So when that happened with 8-1-plus other cases, all those cases when the D.A. agreed were immediately overturned and dismissed. The only one that wasn’t was Meek’s. It goes to show you the level of bias and unfair treatment he’s getting. So we have to go back to a hearing in June.
Are there restrictions on his travel? Obviously these things need to resolved and settled. But he’s not on probation anymore. He was released on bail from a jail sentence. He does not report to a probation officer. He should be able to do what anyone does when they are out on bail. There are certain bail conditions of which he’ll have to comply, which he’s always done, but he’s going to be able to resume his life. Absolutely.