The prosecution against white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof grew increasingly stronger with guilty pleas from his childhood friend, who admitted knowing in advance of Roof’s plot to shoot people in a Charleston, S.C. church.
Joseph “Joey” Meek pleaded guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court in Charleston to misprision of a felony and lying to federal investigators. He was indicted last September, three months after Roof was accused of fatally shooting nine people on June 21 at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.
His plea deal sets the stage for Meek to be a key witness against Roof, who faces a possible death penalty when he stands trial early next year in state court. Roof also faces 33 federal hate crimes charges.
As part of a plea deal, Meek, 21, must “testify fully and truthfully before any grand juries and at any trials or other proceedings if called upon to do so” by federal prosecutors. He also must “be fully truthful and forthright with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies by providing ful1, complete and truthful- information about all criminal activities about which he has knowledge,” the written plea agreement says.
During Friday’s hearing, Meek confessed to knowing a week in advance and not notifying authorities that his friend Roof was planning a racially motivated killing spree at a predominantly black church.
Meek told the court he learned his friend had a .45 caliber Glock handgun and planned to target the Bible study in order to “start a race war because nobody else would do it.”
Roof planned to carry extra ammunition clips in a fanny pack and kill himself after the shooting, his friend told the court. But instead of committing suicide, Roof fled, only to be captured a short time later.
After hearing television reports about the shooting on the evening of June 17, Meek told four friends that Roof was the shooter, but told them not to talk to police. But one of those unidentified young people did call an FBI tip hotline.
The friends were identified in court as Meek’s girlfriend, Lindsey Fry, Cassie Mosteller, Dalton Tyler, and Chris, whose last name was not divulged in court, the State newspaper reported.
“Did you tell them not to report it?” U.S. Judge Richard Gergel asked Meek.
“Yes, sir,” Meek replied, the newspaper reported.
Two months before the mass shooting, Roof visited Meek’s mobile home in the Red Bank community south of Lexington. There, the friends played video games, watched movies and drank alcohol. Roof reportedly proudly showed off his Confederate battle flag and talked about burning the U.S. flag.
Roof reportedly got indoctrinated with white nationalist ideologies through Internet postings and philosophies of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). The group says its mission is to educate white people about what it sees as an epidemic of black-on-white crime in the United States.
When FBI agents showed up at Meek’s home after the killings, he denied knowing about his friend’s racist murder plot.
“You intended to mislead [the agents], did you not?” the judge asked Meek, the newspaper reported.
“Yes, your honor,” Meek replied.
Outside the courthouse, Meek’s court-appointed lawyer Debbie Barbier of Columbia spoke with reporters, describing her client as “young” with a “very limited education.”
“When these unspeakable acts were committed, Joey was scared and he was in shock,” Barbier said. “Today, Mr. Meek makes no excuses for his conduct. He stood in the courtroom today and was fully accountable for his actions,” the newspaper reported.