The only person with whom Dylann Roof shared his racist plan to massacre worshippers at a historically black South Carolina church is about to find out how long he will go to prison for lying to the FBI.
Joey Meek is set to be sentenced Tuesday in Charleston by the same federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial, which ended in January with Roof being sentenced to death for the slaughter of nine people at Emanuel AME church. Meek faces 27 to 33 months behind bars.
Meek said Roof shared his plan to shoot blacks at the historic African-American church in Charleston during a night at Meek’s house where they drank vodka, snorted cocaine, smoked marijuana and played video games. Authorities said that was about a week before the June 17, 2015, killings.
Meek wasn’t prosecuted for not reporting Roof’s plans. Instead, federal prosecutors said he lied to the FBI by first denying Roof shared his plans and encouraged other friends he had told of Roof’s plot to not call authorities.
Meek had agreed to plead guilty and help prosecutors. But they never called him during Roof’s trial, in which Roof acted as his own lawyer for much of the proceedings and put up almost no defence.
Then just before Meek was initially set to be sentenced last month, prosecutors asked for a stiffer sentence than guidelines recommended, seeking to make an example of him and reflect the seriousness of the crime that Meek could have stopped if he’d picked up the phone.
Meek’s lawyer, Deborah Barbier, said that was unfair. Meek has sent handwritten letters to the families of each victim apologizing and added that it hurts him every day when he thinks of what he could have stopped if he had alerted authorities.
Barbier also said the U.S. government shares the burden of not stopping Roof, by failing to finish a background check when he went to buy the gun used in the killings.
“This allegation ignores the Government’s own failures in allowing Roof to buy and possess a handgun with pending drug charge,” Barbier wrote, asking U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel not to give Meek a longer sentence than the guidelines call for.
Meek also is a product of his times where “we live in a society where people say shocking and violent things every day,” wrote Barbier, who included an exhibit cataloging some of the thousands of hostile messages on social media against then-President Barack Obama.
Meek and Roof, both 22, met in middle school after Roof’s mother asked him to be her son’s friend. They drifted apart after Roof moved away in high school, then reconnected months before the shooting when Roof told Meek on Facebook that he saw his old friend’s mugshot online.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins .
Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press