As federal prosecutors seek a stiffer penalty for Joey Meek — the friend of Dylann Roof charged with misleading investigators — the terms of Meek’s plea agreement have been released by his attorney.
Meek offered to plead guilty last April after he was arrested for making false statements to federal officials and concealing knowledge of a crime in relation to the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church. If punished to the full extent of his crimes, Meek would face up to eight years in prison — five years for lying to investigators and three years for concealing information — as well as a fine of up to $500,000 for both charges.
According to court documents filed last week by Meek’s attorney, prosecutors initially offered to reduce Meek’s sentence to 24-30 months for failing to report a crime and up to six months for misleading authorities. Meek’s sentencing hearing has been delayed indefinitely after prosecutors informed a judge about their intentions to seek a stricter penalty for Meek just three days before his previously scheduled hearing.
A federal judge ruled Monday that the government cannot seek an increased sentence for Meek for not disclosing his knowledge of Roof’s plans before the shooting took place. During a future hearing, the judge wrote that he will consider whether an increased sentence is justified based on Meek’s withholding of information after the shooting and Meek’s ordering to others to do the same.
“The court is aware that many lay persons are under the misapprehension that defendant’s failure to report Roof’s plan to law enforcement before the attack violated federal law,” writes U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who oversaw Roof’s federal trial. “Certainly, defendant’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.”
Meek’s attorney, Deborah Barbier, informed prosecutors last December that her client had been subpoenaed by Roof’s defense team to testify during the guilt phase of convicted shooter’s trial. In a recently released email to federal prosecutors, Barbier wrote that she had spoken with an attorney representing Roof, and his testimony would have related to mitigating the charges against Roof rather than focusing on his guilt. Although Meek was never called to testify during the trial, his attorney argues that he has cooperated fully with the terms of his plea agreement.
“Roof did not contest his guilt or the fact that he alone planned and executed these horrific crimes. In light of this, the government may have felt that Joey’s testimony was unnecessary or duplicative,” writes Barbier in a recent court filing. “A skeptic may interpret the government’s decision as an intentional decision to deprive Joey credit for testifying and earning a downward departure for that testimony ... Regardless, even though Joey was ready, willing, and able to truthfully testify and had done everything in his power to be in compliance with his plea agreement and cooperate — he was not called as a witness.”
In the months leading up to Roof’s federal trial, Meek met with prosecutors and mental health experts to provide accounts of his relationship with Roof. Meek stated that he and Roof first met in middle school. While skateboarding around his neighborhood, Meek spoke with Roof’s mother, who said her son had no friends and introduced the two. Described as the product of an abusive upbringing who indulged in drugs, Meek stated that he was jealous of Roof’s home life.
“When asked about Dylann’s demeanor, Joey responded that Dylann was a nervous person and had an odd vibe. He said that was a clean freak and used a lot of acne wash,” read the notes from Meek’s interview with prosecutors. “He noted that Dylann did not like the outdoors. He stated that Dylann carried a black shower bag with him that had body wash and deodorant in it.”
When asked about any intimate relationships that Roof may have had, Meek stated that Roof claimed to have had intercourse with an African-American girl in Eastover. Recalling a encounter at a strip club where Roof expressed interest in “a black girl who was a dancer in the club,” Meek described Roof as “someone who would talk to girls, but never wanted to ask them out.”
The two friends would eventually lose touch and reconnect after Roof contacted Meek online. Meek claims that Roof did not announce his intentions to attack a church until the week before he killed nine black parishioners at Mother Emanuel. Allegedly high on cocaine and swilling vodka, Meek stated that Roof started talking about segregation and wanting to start a race war.
“Joey stated that he could tell that Dylann had been doing some research. Dylann said that he wanted to kill black people at an AME church because it was a historic church,” according to notes taken during Meek’s interview. “Dylann said that Martin Luther King had been to this church. Dylann said that he had been to the church before to question someone when they had Bible study. Joey said at this time, he did not realize that AME was a traditionally black church.”
Roof also allegedly told his friend that he intended to commit suicide after the attack he had been planning for six months.
In arguing against a lengthier sentence for Meek, his attorney writes that his failure to act did not directly cause Roof’s attack and instead points to the failure of a background check that would have prevented Roof from purchasing a firearm due to a previous criminal offense. While pointing to the government’s role in Roof’s attack, Barbier also argues that society as a whole may be partially to blame for Meek’s inaction.
“Joey’s failure to appreciate the seriousness of Roof’s statements is not unusual in today’s shock-value culture. Unfortunately, we live in a society where some people say shocking and violent things every day to each other while in person or on social media,” Barbier writes. “A simple Google search reveals that people in our society threaten to kill others and commit violent acts every day on the internet.”