CHARLESTON, S. C. (AP) — A friend of the white man accused of killing nine black parishioners during a Bible study at a Charleston church last year pleaded guilty Friday to lying to federal authorities. He also revealed the suspect told him he had intended to kill himself after the slayings, which he had planned for months.
The plea by Joey Meek, 21, marked the first conviction in a mass killing that stunned the nation, reignited discussions about race relations and led to the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. Dylann Roof, who is charged with the slayings, had previously posed for photos with a rebel flag.
Authorities have said Meek failed to tell investigators all he knew about Roof’s plans to shoot the parishioners at Emanuel AME Church last June 17. Roof, 22, is charged with nine counts of murder in state court and with hate crimes and other charges in federal court.
FILE – In this June 18, 2015, file frame from video, Joey Meek, friend of Dylann Roof who is accused of killing nine black church members during Bible study on June 17 in Charleston , S. C., speaks to The Associated Press. Meek pleaded guilty Friday, April 29, 2016 to lying to federal authorities during their investigation. (APTN via AP, File)
Meek signed a deal with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to lying to authorities and failure to report a crime. He could face up to eight years in prison when he’s sentenced later, although prosecutors say they will argue he deserves less time if he’s cooperative.
Meek, clad in a dark suit, sat silently looking ahead as more than a dozen relatives of the shooting victims were ushered to seats reserved on one side of the courtroom. He spoke softly, often simply replying “Yes, your honor,” to routine questions from U. S. District Judge Richard Gergel.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Jay Richardson noted that Meek not only knew about Roof’s plans for the shootings but didn’t tell law enforcement and told others not to tell as well.
“Roof told Joey Meek that he was going to shoot people at an AME church in Charleston,” Richardson said, adding Roof had even said he would do so during a Wednesday night Bible study.