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Hours After Rapper Meek Mill Is Released From Prison, He Sits Courtside at the Philadelphia 76ers Playoffs Game

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Rapper Meek Mill was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a judge to free him on bail — and headed straight to the Philadelphia 76ers playoff game.

The Philadelphia-born Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison in November for violating probation on a gun and drug conviction case from about ten years ago. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision comes more than a week after Philadelphia’s district attorney said Mill’s convictions should be vacated and that he should have a new trial. After Judge Genece Brinkley refused to release Mill on bail, the rapper’s lawyers said they would take their case to a higher court.

The Supreme Court asked the judge to issue an immediate order for Mill’s release on unsecured bail.

Mill thanked his team in a series of tweets and said he looked forward to continuing his musical career.

“I’d like to thank God, my family, and all my public advocates for their love, support and encouragement during this difficult time,” he said. “While the past five months have been a nightmare, the prayers, visits, calls, letters and rallies have helped me stay positive.”

Hours after leaving prison, the 76ers fan arrived to the playoffs game about 45 minutes prior to tipoff, ESPN reports. The rapper rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell ahead of the game as the 76ers faced the Miami heat in Game 5. ESPN reports he sat next to Kevin Hart and team co-owner Michael Rubin, who said earlier in the day that he was heading to the prison to pick Mill up.

Mill’s sentencing in November for violating his probation prompted waves of protest from his fans in Philadelphia and drew support from celebrities who argued he had become just another example of how the criminal justice system in the U.S. unfairly targets black people.

The rapper Jay-Z issued a statement calling the sentence “unjust and heavy handed.” In a November op-ed for the New York Times, he wrote about how “probation ends up being a land mine” that trap people for minor violations — a problem that specifically affected Mill but also extends to millions of black Americans.

Other stars banded around Mill after the sentencing. Hart called Mill his “brother for life” and T.I. said “this too shall pass” in November Instagram posts dedicated to their friend. Both men had cause to celebrate on Tuesday once the order for Mill’s release went out — Hart said he found out just after visiting the rapper.

T.I. posted an apparent phone conversation with Mill on Instagram. “They made you a political prisoner to silence you…you stood tall and stayed SOLID!!!” he wrote.



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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com