PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- When Hurricane Sandy canceled flights out of New York on Halloween night 2012, Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill booked a private jet out of his hometown for the Atlanta launch party of his debut album, "Dreams & Nightmares."
But he and his entourage never made the $22,500 charter flight. Instead, Mill and three others, including a senior vice president of the Warner Brothers music label, were arrested and detained for about 10 hours after a North Philadelphia traffic stop triggered by the darkly tinted windows of their Range Rover SUV.
"In neighborhoods like where I come from, four black males in a car, ... we're always being asked to be searched," the 26-year-old Philadelphia entertainer testified Monday, the first day of trial in his civil-rights lawsuit against city police. "All I was doing that night was going to work and doing what I had to do."
Mill believes they were stopped for being black. He refused to let police search the vehicle. The city argues that police, and a trained dog, smelled marijuana in the car. However, no drugs were found and no charges filed.
The lead officer on the stop, Andre Boyer, has since been fired after earning the dubious distinction of racking up the most civilian complaints in the department. An internal police memo shown in court Tuesday described him as a "very aggressive narcotics officer" whose reports were riddled with errors.
Mill, whose real name is Robert Williams, was taken to a police station, along with the studio executive, a friend, and an armed, off-duty Florida police officer. At the station, one officer snapped a cellphone photo of the handcuffed singer that was soon circulating online, while another posted a photo to her Instagram account, according to Mill's lawsuit.
Mill said he feared that his career, just getting off the ground, would be thwarted. And he worried that he was still on probation from a 2009 drug and gun case in Philadelphia that cost him nearly a year in jail.
The city, for its part, argues that Mill himself retweeted the police station photo to 1 million followers. And his "Dreams & Nightmares" album cover features a Rolex linked to a pair of handcuffs.
"Plaintiff has also repeatedly referred to his drug use and criminal history in his song lyrics," Deputy Solicitor Amanda Shoffel wrote in her trial brief. "Many of these songs appear on the same album for which he is claiming a loss in record sales ... for harm to his 'image.'"
Meek puts his losses at $67,000 for the flight, lost appearance fee and extra car rental fee, along with lost income from a lower-than-expected Puma contract. His agent had thought his Puma retainer would rise, along with his celebrity, from $400,000 to $2 million. Instead, his contract jumped to $650,000. Mill's lawyers also seek money for his pain and suffering.
The debut album reached No. 2 on the US Billboard chart, according to the city's trial memo.
Williams is also suing several of the officers individually.
The trial is expected to last several days. Four men and four women are on the jury; six of them are white.
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