Roof’s pal gets 27 months for hin­der­ing FBI probe

Joey Meek talked an­other friend out of go­ing to po­lice.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Jef­fery Collins As­so­ci­ated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dur­ing a night of vodka, co­caine, mar­i­juana and video games, Joey Meek lis­tened as a child­hood buddy con­fided that he hated blacks so much he was go­ing to kill them at a Charleston church.

Meek said he thought his friend was all talk un­til a week later, when news broke of a deadly shoot­ing ram­page at Emanuel AME church. But in­stead of call­ing au­thor­i­ties, Meek talked an­other friend out of go­ing to po­lice and giv­ing them Dy­lann Roof ’s name. And then he lied to the FBI about his con­ver­sa­tion with Roof.

For those crimes, Meek, 22, was sen­tenced Tues­day to more than two years in prison.

The pun­ish­ment was handed down by the fed­eral judge who presided at Roof ’s trial, which ended in Jan­uary with the avowed white su­prem­a­cist sen­tenced to death for mas­sacring nine black peo­ple as they bowed their heads in prayer dur­ing a Wed­nes­day night Bi­ble study ses­sion on June 17, 2015.

Un­like Roof, Meek showed re­morse for his crimes.

“I’m re­ally, re­ally sorry. A lot of beau­ti­ful lives were taken,” he said, read­ing from a state­ment.

He cried as he told the judge he fears ret­ri­bu­tion be­hind bars: “I don’t know if I’ll make it out of prison alive. I’m scared.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s 27-month prison term was the min­i­mum pun­ish­ment un­der fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines. The gov­ern­ment wanted a stiffer sen­tence to make an ex­am­ple out of Meek and be­cause he could have stopped the mas­sacre. None of the vic­tims’ fam­ily mem­bers spoke in court, and they had no com­ment for re­porters.

In a deal with pros­e­cu­tors, Meek pleaded guilty to con­ceal­ment of a crime and ly­ing to the FBI.

Meek was not charged for fail­ing to tell po­lice about the im­pend­ing at­tack, since that is not a crime un­der fed­eral law. In­stead, he was pros­e­cuted for stop­ping a friend im­me­di­ately af­ter the slaugh­ter from call­ing the po­lice to re­port Roof as a sus­pect.

The judge said Meek’s ac­tions de­layed Roof ’s cap­ture for hours, dur­ing which Roof eas­ily could have mas­sa­cred more peo­ple some­where else.

If Meek “had just gone in his bed­room and cried and re­gret­ted not re­port­ing, he would have com­mit­ted no fed­eral crime,” Gergel said.

Meek and Roof, also 22, met in mid­dle school, drifted apart dur­ing their high school years and then re­con­nected months be­fore the shoot­ing. Meek is the only per­son with whom Roof is known to have shared his mur­der­ous plans.

Meek told the FBI that he didn’t re­port the con­ver­sa­tion or call po­lice even af­ter hear­ing about the shoot­ings in Charleston be­cause he was on pro­ba­tion for bur­glary and was wor­ried he would get in more trou­ble.

He also said he was so scared af­ter hear­ing about the mas­sacre that he won­dered if he needed to get a gun to pro­tect him­self from Roof.

“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,” his at­tor­ney Deb­o­rah Bar­bier said out­side court.

Meek sent each victim’s fam­ily a hand­writ­ten let­ter of apol­ogy, point­ing out qual­i­ties he ad­mired about their loved one. He ended each let­ter the same way: “I ask for your for­give­ness, but I don’t ex­pect it.”

BRAD NET­TLES / POST AND COURIER

Joey Meek’s at­tor­ney, Deb­o­rah Bar­bier, speaks to the me­dia Tues­day af­ter her client was sen­tenced to more than two years in prison. The gov­ern­ment wanted a stiffer sen­tence to make an ex­am­ple out of Meek.

Joey Meek said that he was “re­ally, re­ally sorry” for his ac­tions.

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