A friend who knew that accused murderer Dylann Roof planned to shoot numerous people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, pleaded guilty to withholding knowledge and lying to federal officers.
The New York Times reports that Joseph C. Meek, Jr,. 21, faces up to eight years in prison and $500,000 in fines for failing to tell authorities that Roof, 22, told him about plans to visit the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, on June 17, 2015, and open fire.
While under oath, Meek, clean-shaven and wearing a dark grey suit, said that he didn’t take Roof’s threats seriously as first. The air-conditioning mechanic said that he realized how serious Roof when the accused killer described later, in detail, how he planned to start a “race war” by shooting numerous black churchgoers as they attended Bible Study at Emmanuel AME.
Although Roof didn’t outright admit that he went through with the killings, Meek stated that he had a strong suspicion after he heard about it, and began telling numerous friends that Roof made good on his threats. Meek, who had already been questioned about the attacks, asked his friends to not call the police, but one friend called the FBI. On June 19, two days after the mass shooting happened, Meek was questioned again. This time, he told the FBI that he had lied during the previous questioning.
Meek also admitted that Roof told him he wanted to kill as many black people as possible, and that he planned to carry a .45 caliber Glock pistol in a fanny pack so that no one would notice it. Meek said that Roof also told him he planned to kill himself after the shootings, but didn’t explain how or why he chose the Emmanuel church.
Friday’s hearing marked the first time Meek publicly admitted to knowing about Roof’s plans. When questioned by U.S. Judge Richard Gergel if he disputed the facts presented to him, Meek replied.
“No, your honor. He told me a week before it happened.”
Meeks’ court-appointed defense attorney, Debbie Barbier, spoke with the media outside the courthouse shortly after the hearing was over. She indicated that Meeks was scared and young, but has since found God and asked for forgiveness.
“Joey Meek is young. He has a very limited education. When these unspeakable acts were committed, Joey was scared and he was in shock. Today, Mr. Meek makes no excuses for his conduct. He stood in the courtroom today and was fully accountable for his actions……He has asked God for forgiveness. He would like nothing more than (the victims’ families’) forgiveness, but he certainly does not expect their forgiveness.”
Meek is scheduled for sentencing next week. Although he could face substantial fines and numerous years in prison, he’s expected to get a lighter sentence. He’s currently free on $25,000 bail but isn’t allowed to speak with immediate family members.
Meanwhile, Roof’s trial is scheduled to start in January, 2017. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty, but the government still hasn’t made a decision on whether the request will be honored. Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson delayed the trial until January because Roof’s psychiatric evaluation still isn’t completed. The judge said he “felt obligated” to approve a continuance, based on a physician’s report.
Dylan Roof faces a total of total of 33 federal charges after killing nine people and injuring three others. He’s charged with nine counts of felony murder, and numerous hate crime charges and civil rights violations.
[Photo by Pool/Getty Images]