City responds to federal complaint by rising rapper Meek Mill

By Jon Campisi | Apr 16, 2014

Attorneys representing the City of Philadelphia in a federal civil rights case

brought by rapper Meek Mill have filed court papers calling into question the hip hop artist’s allegations.

In an April 14 filing, Deputy City Solicitor Amanda C. Shoffel says the plaintiff, whose given name is Robert Williams, has written songs referring to police, public defenders, private criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors that appear on the same album for which he is claiming a loss in record sales from the actions of the defendants in his civil case.

Williams, a rising rapper from North Philadelphia who is in his mid-20s, filed suit in January 2013 against the city and police officers Andrew Boyer and Michael Vargas over claims that the two cops unlawfully imprisoned him and took pictures of the plaintiff that were later posted to social media.

The suit alleges that the officers pulled over Williams on Oct. 31, 2012, in the area of 11th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia without cause or justification.

The plaintiff was subsequently handcuffed and transported to the 22nd Police District, where the officers allegedly took photos of Williams behind bars and posted the images to Instagram and other social media websites.

Williams says he was ultimately held in police custody for nine hours without being charged with a crime.

He maintains the incident affected his livelihood because he missed a promotional appearance in Atlanta.

Specifically, Williams alleges he was forced to forfeit a deposit for a private jet ride, was made to to refund a personal appearance fee, lost numerous sponsorship deals and endorsements, and experienced anxiety and embarrassment.

In the defendants’ pretrial memorandum filed this week, Shoffel, the assistant city solicitor, wrote that the suit is at odds with the plaintiff’s onstage persona.

“Plaintiff’s defamation and invasion of privacy claims have put his reputation directly at issue in this case,” Shoffel wrote. “He claims that because two officers took pictures of him in the district, his image was irreparably harmed. Plaintiff ignored the fact that he holds himself out in his imagery as someone with frequent contacts with law enforcement who engages in illegal behavior.”

Shoffel pointed to an album cover image depicting Williams wearing a Rolex watch with a pair of handcuffs around his wrists.

Williams also re-tweeted the picture allegedly taken by the cops to one of his millions of followers, the filing states, and he proceeded to comment on the irony of the image juxtaposed against his album art.

“He has also posed for photos smoking what appears to be marijuana, fleeing from police, and posing with firearms,” the memorandum states.

Shoffel wrote that Williams has also repeatedly referred to his drug use and criminal history in his song lyrics.

In the filing, the defense maintains that Williams was pulled over for dark tint on the windows of his Range Rover, and once pulled over, the officers say they smelled the odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle.

A police narcotics dog signaled the presence of the drug, which gave the officers probable cause to search the vehicle and detain Williams, the memorandum states.

The Solicitor’s Office also provided a list of 11 witnesses expected to testify at the upcoming trial.

A list of 25 exhibits was also provided.

The lawsuit contains counts of false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, conspiracy and federal civil rights claims.

There is also a Monell claim against the city for a practice or policy of failing to properly train, supervise and/or discipline police officers in the lawful detention of individuals and vehicles.

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