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.
“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 attack.
Meek faced 27 to 33 months in prison.
No family members of the victims spoke at sentencing.
Meek said Roof shared his murderous plan during a night at Meek’s house as 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 later struck a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to failure to report a crime and lying to authorities.
He was not sentenced for failing to go to the police before the attack. Instead, authorities said, Meek broke the law when he stopped a friend in the hours immediately after the attack 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 sentenced 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, pointed out recently that Meek had sent handwritten letters to the families of each victim apologizing. She also said he thinks regularly of what happened and is pained.
Meek is a product of his times where “we live in a society where people say shocking and violent things every day,” Barbier wrote.
Roof and Meek, who is also 22, met in middle school. 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.
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