Rapper Meek Mill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in Philadelphia court on Tuesday and won't serve additional time in prison — bringing an end to a case that'sfor most of his adult life and turned him into a high-profile activist for criminal justice reform. The negotiated plea comes a month after an .
The 32-year-old rapper, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, had already served about two years in prison in the case, which began with an arrest when he was 19. The judge decided he won't have to spend any additional time behind bars or on probation.
"I know this has been a long road for you and hopefully this will be the end of it," Judge Leon Tucker told the rapper.
The negotiated plea came after both sides questioned the credibility of the arresting officer. The defense also accused the trial judge of bias for sending the entertainer back to prison over minor probation violations.
Williams has called the 12-year ordeal "mentally and emotionally challenging," but said millions of people face the same issues. He has become an activist for criminal justice reform since he was sent back to prison in 2017 for technical violations he blamed on his erratic travel schedule as his career soared. He spent five months locked up before an appeals court granted him bail.
After the hearing, the rapper spoke briefly to cheering supporters who had gathered for a rally outside the courthouse.
"I just wanted to come up here myself and thank all the supporters because I know y'all probably got family members in jail or people going through the same thing as me and I will continue to do what I do with the reform movement and help the people who helped me," Williams said.
Last month, a Pennsylvania appeals court overturned the conviction, saying new evidence undermined the credibility of the officer who testified against the rapper at his trial and made it likely he would be acquitted if the case were retried.
District Attorney Larry Krasner's office had supported Williams' appeal and said it could not call the former officer to testify after an internal probe found he'd stolen money on duty and lied about it.
"(The state) cannot call a witness whose credibility it mistrusts," prosecutors wrote in a legal brief this year.
The officer, Reginald Graham, has denied the allegations.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Krasner said the plea deal is not an exoneration "of someone who was completely innocent," but he said the resolution is a fair one to a case he said involved excessive punishment, unfair procedures and "questionable integrity."
"I frankly can't think of the last case I saw where there was a conviction of this nature, and yet the supervision went on in excess of 10 years," Krasner said.
He said Williams has accepted responsibility for his criminal conduct and noted "profound changes in Mr. Williams since the time of his original conviction."
Williams has spent a total of about two years in prison over the case, including an initial term of about a year and several later stints over travel violations and painkiller use.
He is now free of the close scrutiny of Judge Genece Brinkley, who convicted him after a short nonjury trial in 2008 and called him back to court repeatedly during a decade of court supervision. Brinkley frequently complained that Williams was "thumbing his nose" at her, and once visited a homeless shelter to check up on his community service efforts. She later reprimanded him for sorting clothes rather than serving meals as she had ordered. He said he was directed to the job.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court removed Brinkley from the case as it granted Williams a new trial. Krasner's office then had to decide whether to retry him or try to negotiate a plea, perhaps to misdemeanor charges. In his testimony at trial, Williams admitted having a gun but denied that he pointed it at police or was selling drugs at the time.
In 2015, a federal jury rejected a lawsuit Williams filed against a Philadelphia police over what he called a racially motivated, 10-hour traffic stop that led him to miss the launch party for his 2012 debut album, "Dreams & Nightmares."
His follow-up albums include the chart-topping "Dreams Worth More Than Money" and last year's "Championships," which includes performances from Jay-Z, his mentor, and former girlfriend Nicki Minaj.
On July 24, just hours before the Pennsylvania Superior Court threw out his conviction, Meek Mill and Jay-Z announced they were launching a new label called Dream Chasers Records. His growing business empire also includes an ownership stake in the hat company Lids.
Assistant District Attorney Paul George noted in court Tuesday that Williams had no criminal record before or since his original arrest a dozen years ago but added that "even though he was a young man at the time, he was adult enough to admit he had a gun."
On Tuesday, Judge Tucker encouraged Mill to keep up the work he's been doing.
"You are a representative of the community that I live in, I grew up in. People depend on you," Tucker said. "At 32, you have a full life ahead of you. You know right from wrong. ... You know what to do. Don't be persuaded by anyone but yourself."
The rapper replied, "Thank you."