COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dylann Roof's friend should not get an unusually tough prison sentence for failing to warn police about Roof's plans to kill black worshippers at a Charleston church, a judge ruled on Monday.
Prosecutors had argued that Joey Meek, 22, knew about Roof's desire to start a race war by killing black people inside a church. In court papers filed earlier this year, they argued that Meek's failure to report his friend's plans beforehand prevented authorities from possibly thwarting the massacre.
Sentencing for Meek, who pleaded guilty last year, was postponed last month after prosecutors said that he needs a harsher punishment than the 27 to 33 months contained in federal guidelines to fully account for the horrible nature of Roof's crime. Meek's attorneys are seeking a shorter sentence. The maximum is eight years.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that Meek can 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 agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors when he pleaded guilty to failing to report Roof's plans and lying to federal authorities. Prosecutors in turn said his help would be noted when he was sentenced.
But Roof put up only a minimum defense during his trial, and Meek was never mentioned. Roof was convicted on 33 federal charges including hate crimes and sentenced to death.
A new sentencing for Meek hasn't been scheduled, but online filings show attorneys are slated to have a teleconference with Gergel on Tuesday. Previously, Meek has filed papers including handwritten notes to the families of each of the nine people killed by Roof. Each letter ends with Meek writing: "I ask for your forgiveness, but I don't expect it."
Meek has also written he fears he won't make it out of prison alive because someone will kill him for associating with Roof. He also promises to mentor children and tell them to report any time someone speaks of harming others.
"I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry that this has all happened to such beautiful families," Meek wrote. "I wish I would have taken Dylann more seriously."
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/