Dylann Roof’s Friend, Joey Meek, Sentenced to 27 Months In Prison for Lying to F.B.I.

Joey Meek

Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of Dylann S. Roof’s who spent time with him in the weeks before nine people were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for hampering and misleading the federal authorities in the aftermath of Mr. Roof’s racist massacre.

The punishment, handed down by Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court, was at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, which called for Mr. Meek to spend from 27 to 33 months in prison. The months that he spent in a county jail after his arrest will count toward his federal sentence.

Before the sentence was announced, a tearful Mr. Meek said he was not sure whether he would survive prison, and he apologized to family members of Mr. Roof’s victims, some of whom had gathered for the hearing. “I’m really sorry a lot of innocent lives were taken,” said Mr. Meek, who had previously expressed remorse in handwritten letters in which he asked for forgiveness.

But Judge Gergel, speaking at a hearing that lasted more than two hours, said Mr. Meek’s crimes warranted prison. “The danger he exposed to the community is extraordinary,” he said.

Mr. Meek’s lawyer, Deborah B. Barbier, expressed concern that her client would be forced to spend his sentence in solitary confinement because of security risks. Judge Gergel said the federal Bureau of Prisons could be trusted to protect him.

“It’s an odd, inverse logic that I should not incarcerate him because inmates think so lowly of him,” the judge said.

Mr. Meek, 22, pleaded guilty last April to two federal counts related to the truthfulness of his responses to the F.B.I. in interviews shortly after the shooting on June 17, 2015 — misprision of a felony and making a false statement to a law enforcement officer. Misprision refers to the failure to report a known crime.

The government did not prosecute Mr. Meek for failing to disclose knowledge of Mr. Roof’s plans to attack the church, although it asserted in court filings that his silence “did deprive law enforcement of the opportunity to intervene.”

During a night of drinking and drug use about a week before the shootings, Mr. Roof told Mr. Meek that he wanted to kill black people at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston in order to start a race riot, according to F.B.I. summaries of interviews with him. Mr. Meek was concerned enough to hide Mr. Roof’s handgun after he fell asleep but later returned it and did not report the threat to law enforcement.

“Certainly defendant’s failure to make an earlier report is tragic and deeply regrettable, but his failure to report was not a violation of federal criminal law,” Judge Gergel wrote last week in an order that denied prosecutors’ request to give Mr. Meek a longer term than recommended in sentencing guidelines.

Ms. Barbier said in a presentencing filing that it was “hypocritical and disingenuous” for prosecutors to suggest that Mr. Meek was somehow to blame for the killings. “Joey’s failure to appreciate the seriousness of Roof’s statements is not unusual in today’s shock value culture,” she wrote.

In court on Tuesday, a defense witness said Mr. Meek’s connection to the Charleston massacre would make him a “high-value target” in prison. “He’ll have to be kept separate from other inmates — not because of what he did, but because he has some relationship to a heinous crime,” said the witness, James Aiken, a former warden for the South Carolina prison system.

The case against Mr. Meek matters both as a lesson about reporting suspicions and for the insight he provides into Mr. Roof, who represented himself at times at trial and blocked the admission of any evidence about his background or psychology. As a result, the trial in December and January, which ended in a death sentence for Mr. Roof, provided little information about what may have incited him to act so violently on his racist beliefs.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
Chris Dixon and Kevin Sack