Officer's Record May Help Rapper He Arrested
(CN) - A cop accused of falsely arresting rapper Meek Mill over a supposed pot odor cannot exclude evidence of prior unwarranted searches based on similar "smells," a federal judge ruled.
Robert Williams, known professionally as Meek Mill, said he was driving a Range Rover SUV in Philadelphia when police officers Andre Boyer and Michael Vargas pulled him over without cause at about 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2012.
The officers then handcuffed Williams, "following an unconstitutional stop, frisk and detention practice implemented by the high command" of the department, the complaint states.
Boyer and Vargas then drove Williams to the police station and took photos of him that they later posted on Instagram and other social-media websites, according to the complaint.
The police allegedly detained the rapper "against his will" in a cell for about nine hours, without charging him for any crime, and released him at 4:30 the next morning.
Williams sued the officers individually last year, alleging that they lied about smelling marijuana coming from his vehicle.
Vargas was later dismissed from suit, but the city still faces claims that it showed deliberate indifference to Boyer's pattern of constitutional violations.
Williams also said the arrest forced him to miss a promotional appearance in Atlanta that night, costing him payment for the gig as well as the deposit he put down for a private jet.
Placement of Williams in a false light, for which the officers were never disciplined, furthermore allegedly cost the rapper numerous sponsorships, endorsements and profitable business opportunities, and left him with anxiety and embarrassment.
Philadelphia and Boyer moved to exclude evidence of Boyer's alleged prior misconduct, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice refused to shield records of an internal investigation that found that Boyer was disciplined after he "continuously and repeatedly placed inaccurate information on official documents in the process of completing marijuana arrests" from 2006 to 2008.
"Because this investigation shows that the city knew about Officer Boyer's misconduct in connection with numerous marijuana arrests over two years, it is probative of Williams' claims that the city failed to properly discipline and supervise Officer Boyer," the April 23 decision states.
The investigation "also is relevant to Williams' claim that Officer Boyer fabricated claims of smelling marijuana to justify a search of Williams' vehicle," Rice added. "Such evidence demonstrates a specific pattern of behavior that could be considered a 'plan' and, therefore, absence of mistake on the part of Officer Boyer."
Complaints of Boyer's prior unwarranted searches are relevant as well, the ruling states.
"This evidence supports an inference that Officer Boyer has attempted to justify warrantless searches based on meritless or disputed suspicions of criminal activity," Rice wrote. "The evidence does not implicate Officer Boyer's propensity to violate the law; rather, it establishes his plan or modus operandi for justifying his actions."
But the judge refused to admit prior complaints of force and verbal abuse against Boyer, which he deemed "unrelated to his actions here and could only inflame the jury."
The court excluded Boyer's complete police record as "excessive" evidence, as well.
Williams additionally cannot call his business managers as liability and damages witnesses, nor can he summon a Philadelphia cop as a liability witness against Boyer.