The federal judge overseeing the dispute between Roc Nation, a subsidiary of retail giant Amazon, and a prominent Philadelphia attorney that stemmed from the filming of a documentary series about the rapper Meek Mill has asked the parties to have an expert review the allegedly leaked audio recording that is at the center of the controversy.
U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last week issued an order asking the parties to either agree on an expert to evaluate the audio tape or submit names of qualified experts who could review the tape for authenticity.
“Following review of the expert’s analysis, the court will consider granting leave to the parties for any supplemental submissions that may be relevant,” McHugh said.
The audio tape is central to claims that Philadelphia attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. brought last year against Amazon Studios, Roc Nation and others for allegedly violating the Wiretap Act when he was recorded, allegedly without his knowledge, during the filing of the docuseries about Mill and the justice system.
On the audio, which was eventually leaked to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Peruto can be heard saying, among other things, that the conduct of his client, Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley, who oversaw high-profile criminal proceedings against Mill, “looks fucking awful.”
According to Peruto, a portion of the audio was cut out of the leaked recording, which would have given the proper context to his comments, in which he said he praised the judge for following the law. He also said he made the comments off the record, and when he believed the camera had been turned off.
The defendants have asked the court to dismiss the claims, contending, among other things, that Peruto never said the conversation should be off the record, and that under the federal Wiretap Act, only consent from one of the parties is needed.
“Simply put, because the recording itself and the subsequent dissemination of the recording were lawful, Peruto cannot state a federal Wiretap Act claim against any of the defendants as a matter of law,” the defendants said in a joint motion.
The docuseries, which is set to be released on Amazon’s streaming service over the summer, focuses on the criminal proceedings against Mill, whose real name is Robert Williams, and the numerous criminal justice issues that arose out of his case.
Mill’s case caught national attention in late 2017 after Brinkley sentenced the hip-hop star to a lengthy jail sentence for a probation violation, even though neither Mill’s probation officer nor the prosecutor on the case had sought jail time.
The sentence garnered national attention and sparked an outcry for criminal justice reforms. It also led to a protracted appeals process, which has spurred hundreds of additional appeals involving cases from Mill’s arresting officer, led one court employee to be fired, and raised an ethical cloud over Brinkley, which eventually led her to hire Peruto.
A teaser trailer for the docuseries was posted Sunday.
Ballard Spahr attorney Michael Berry is representing Amazon, and Joshua Peles of Reed Smith is representing Roc Nation. Neither attorney immediately returned a call for comment. Jim Beasley Jr. of The Beasley Firm, who is representing Peruto, declined to comment.