The friend of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was sentenced to two years and three months behind bars Tuesday, March 21, after urging others not to report Roof’s role in the massacre that left nine Black worshipers dead.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said the community was lucky the self-avowed white supremacist didn’t commit further acts of violence due to the inaction of 22-year-old Joey Meek. Meek, a childhood friend who had recently rekindled his relationship with the gunman, initially shrugged off Roof’s threats of mass violence, but Gergel said Meek crossed the line after he advised others not to report his friend when the attack actually materialized.
“He put his own interests ahead of … the interests of the community,” the judge said, adding that Meek was more concerned with not getting in trouble. “We want other people in a similar situation to make the right decision that this defendant did not.”
Tuesday’s ruling brought a close to the federal cases against two men charged in the massacre at Emmanuel AME church that occurred in June 2015, according to the Post and Courier. Roof was convicted and sentenced to death earlier this year but must still face a trial in state court.
In April of last year, Meek pleaded guilty to two charges and was indicted for withholding information concerning the plans of his old friend and for lying to investigators about it. He faced up to eight years behind bars but was instead handed a 27-month stint, falling short of the 33 months recommended under sentencing guidelines. Pleas by Meek’s defense team for a lesser penalty and arguments by prosecutors for a harsher punishment were both struck down by the judge, the Post and Courier reported.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Meek told the court during his sentencing. “[I] really wish I would have called the cops.
“I don’t know if I will make it out of prison alive,” he continued. “I’m scared.”
After the killings, Meek told reporters Roof had vague plans to incite a race war and had gone on a drunken rant threatening to “do something crazy.” Meek said he did not take his friend’s threat seriously at the time but was concerned enough to confiscate and hide Roof’s gun. He returned it the next day.
However, prosecutors alleged that Meek told an FBI agent questioning him after the church shooting that “he didn’t know [the] specifics of Dylann Roof’s plan to shoot individuals on a Wednesday during Bible study at an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.” Attorneys argued that Meek’s claims denying such specifics were false, which resulted in him being charged for failing to notify authorities of any information he had about the deadly shooting “as soon as possible,” CNN reported.
“Joey sincerely hopes that anyone who has a friend who is talking about hurting someone will take it seriously, learn from his mistake and notify the proper authorities immediately,” said Meek’s defense lawyer, Deborah Barbier, after the hearing. “[He] has expressed to all of the families of the victims of the brutal murders at the AME church his sincere remorse and sympathies for their losses.”
No one spoke at the hearing on behalf of the nine victims.