PHILADELPHIA – A judge appears likely to send rapper Meek Mill back behind bars early next year for a steady stream of probation violations, most involving his failure to keep the court aware of his erratic travels.
Mill offered emotional testimony Thursday about his rudderless childhood in gritty North Philadelphia, while girlfriend Nicki Minaj and various managers pledged to keep him on track.
But Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley, who had spared him state prison in a 2009 drug and gun case, had heard it all before.
"How many times am I supposed to give him a second chance?" she asked, concluding that probation may no longer be "appropriate." She ordered him not to work or perform before the Feb. 5 sentencing.
A jail term would presumably stall his career following a year in which the Roc Nation-signed talent has performed with Minaj, Jay-Z and other industry A-listers, and issued his second studio album, "Dreams Worth More than Money."
Mill served short stints in jail and home confinement following his conviction, when he could have gotten five to 10 years in prison.
"The chance you gave me definitely changed my life and changed my family's life," Mill testified Thursday, explaining that he supports his mother, extended family and 4-year-old son. "If you didn't give me a chance, I probably wouldn't be at this place I'm at now."
Mill, born Robert Williams, lost his father to violence when he was 5 and left school in the tenth grade. The 28-year-old now dates one of the most famous women in entertainment.
"He doesn't have a lot of structure. He can be irresponsible," Minaj, 33, testified last week. "Since I've come in his life, I think I've been working on that a little bit. ... He's just getting accustomed to being an adult."
He said he has dropped old friends from his entourage to focus on his family and girlfriend. His lawyer said he and Minaj were seriously discussing marriage.
The lawyer blamed the problems on the chaos of the music industry. The latest rules required Mill to get travel vouchers before he leaves town and meet with his probation officer in Philadelphia every 60 days.
"He's not a person who knows how to keep schedules. He's not an accountant. He's an artist," argued his latest lawyer, Frank DeSimone. "And those people are notoriously slipshod (at organization)."
The violations include Mill's performances at a New York benefit concert last month and, according to prosecutors, efforts to meet up in various cities with Minaj. Brinkley also raised questions about a suspicious sample during a drug test. Mill denied trying to thwart the test or taking any drugs. He also dissed the case prosecutor in a rap song, a decision he now calls "immature."
Mill told the judge he was so concerned about the rules that he missed being at his mother's bedside after a recent surgery in New Jersey. The state, Brinkley explained, was keeping supervised felons out that day amid heightened security for the Miss America pageant.
"This court has done nothing but try to help the defendant," she said.