PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia lawyer is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to send back to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas a lawsuit in which he alleges his off-the-record comments were illegally transcribed in an interview for a documentary chronicling rapper Meek Mill and the criminal justice system.
During a recorded interview that took place this year, plaintiff and attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr., who represents Judge Genece Brinkley of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, said his off-the-record remarks were illegally recorded and distributed to media outlets.
Brinkley was the presiding judge in the case of hip hop singer Meek Mill. The documentary is slated for a 2019 release.
Philadelphia federal court
The film recounts the two- to four-year prison sentence in 2017 given to Meek Mill for violating parole. He served five months in the State Correctional Institution in Chester and was released to await trial on drug and gun charges stemming from a conviction for assaulting two pedestrians in 2017.
The sentence angered Meek Mill’s supporters and led to calls for reform of the criminal justice system in Pennsylvania, given that neither Meek Mill’s probation officer nor the prosecutor in the case had sought jail time for the star.
Peruto sued media interviewers from Roc Nation, an entertainment company, Sixx Degrees Media, Amazon Digital Services and Amazon Prime Video in September.
During the interview, Peruto said he instructed the defendants to go “off the record.” The defendants he said agreed verbally and turned a film camera toward a wall.
Instead, Peruto claimed his confidential remarks were recorded and taken out of context, making him appear to harshly criticize his client Brinkley. Peruto alleged the defendants lied to him and continued to record the audio portion of his remarks and then digitally stored the comments in violation of state law.
According to a Sept. 13 report in The Legal Intelligencer, the comments included Peruto allegedly saying Brinkley’s conduct “looks (expletive) awful” among other comments. The remarks were later leaked to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Intelligencer report said, and the comments were also made available to TMZ, a Los Angeles-based tabloid news website.
In the complaint, Peruto contended that Sixx Degrees Media had been engaged by Meek Mill to promote the star’s political agenda regarding the Philadelphia criminal justice system and had participated in support rallies for the singer.
On Oct. 17, the defendants filed for removal of the case from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to the U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court, citing that Sixx Degrees had been fraudulently joined to the case as a defendant and asked for “diversity jurisdiction,” removal from a state court to a federal court because the opposing parties are from different states.
Peruto alleged this was a falsehood.
“There is no basis for diversity jurisdiction,” the motion to remand stated. “This matter must be remanded to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas where it was properly filed.”
Peruto said Sixx Degrees admitted it was a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and not an out-of-state defendant. The company’s website lists offices in New York and Philadelphia.
“Removal is improper because there is no diversity,” the complaint noted.
Peruto said personnel at Roc Nation know Sixx Degrees Media was in possession of the illegally obtained recording and had been instrumental in its improper distribution and the public relations use of it.
The complaint asked the case to be remanded back to the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.
Peruto is being represented in the case by James Beasley Jr. of The Beasley Firm in Philadelphia.