CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The only person with whom Dylann Roof shared his racist plot to massacre parishioners at a historic black church was sentenced Tuesday to more than two years in prison for hampering the investigation and lying to the FBI after the attack.
“I’m really, really sorry. A lot of beautiful lives were taken,” 22-year-old Joey Meek told the court. He began to cry as he added: “I don’t know if I’ll make it out of prison alive. I’m scared.”
Meek was handed 27 months behind bars by the same federal judge who presided over Roof’s trial, which ended in January with the avowed white supremacist being sentenced to death for slaughtering nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to anyone else who learns of something so serious and fails to come forward. He added that Meek was fortunate another massacre didn’t occur because of the delay in identifying Roof in the hours after the shooting rampage.
No family members of the victims spoke at sentencing.
Meek said Roof confided his murderous plans during a night at Meek’s house as the two childhood friends drank vodka, snorted cocaine, smoked marijuana and played video games about a week before the June 17, 2015, killings.
In a deal with prosecutors, Meek pleaded guilty to failure to report a crime and lying to authorities.
Meek was not charged for failing to go to the police before the attack. Instead, authorities said, he was prosecuted for stopping a friend in the hours immediately after the slaughter from calling the police to report Roof as a suspect.
Also, authorities said Meek lied to the FBI when he initially denied Roof had shared his plan with him.
Gergel previously ruled that Meek could only be punished for what he did after the slayings, not for any inaction beforehand. Meek’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,” the judge wrote.
Meek’s lawyer, Deborah Barbier, said in a statement outside the courtroom: “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.”
Barbier pointed out recently that Meek had sent handwritten letters of apology to the families of each victim. In court papers, she portrayed Meek as the product of a society “where people say shocking and violent things every day.”
Roof and Meek, who is also 22, met in middle school. They drifted apart during their high school years, then reconnected months before the shooting when Roof told Meek on Facebook that he saw his friend’s mugshot online. Meek had a criminal record that included burglary charges.