South Carolina church shooter's friend to serve time for lying, silence

CHARLESTON, S.C., March 21 (Reuters) - The South Carolina man who suspected his friend Dylann Roof was to blame for the June 2015 massacre at a historic black church but did not immediately call police and told others to stay silent was sentenced on Tuesday to more than two years in prison.

Joey Meek, 22, told authorities Roof revealed his plot during a cocaine and vodka-fueled night about a week before the shooting, which was one of several racially charged shootings in recent years that reopened debate about race relations and gun control laws in the United States.

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Dylann Roof, Charleston church shooter, trial and sentencing
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Dylann Roof, Charleston church shooter, trial and sentencing
Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, U.S. June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Miczek/File Photo
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 19: (L-R) Sisters Margaret Kerry, Mary Thecla and Kathleen Lang of the Order of the Daughters of St. Paul pray outside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church June 19, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the death penalty for Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina, if he is found guilty of murdering nine people during a prayer meeting at the church Wednesday night. Among the dead is the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church which, according to the National Park Service, is the oldest black congregation in America south of Baltimore. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Crowds take part in the morning service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 21, 2015. The church reopened today for its first service since Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, allegedly killed nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Department of Homeland Security officers stand outside the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof who was found guilty of 33 counts including hate crimes in Charleston, South Carolina December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
John Pinckney (C) father of Emanuel Church shooting victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, leaves the Charleston Federal Courthouse after Dylann Roof was found guilty on 33 counts including hate crimes in Charleston, South Carolina December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. A 21-year-old white man has been charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church, police said on Friday, and media reports said he had hoped to incite a race war in the United States. REUTERS/POOL
Family and friends of the Emanuel Church shooting victims, arrive at the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
CHARLESTON, SC - JULY 31: Attorney William Nettles, part of the defense team for Dylann Roof, arrives at federal court prior to the arraignment hearing for the Emanuel AME gunman JULY 31, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, the shooter involved in the June 17 massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston faces 33 federal charges, including hate crimes. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Mourner Rosie Frederick kneels outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 18, 2015 a day after a mass shooting left nine dead during a bible study at the church. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of having fatally shot nine people at the historic African-American church in South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday's attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
CHARLESTON, SC - JULY 31: Jerome Smalls stands outside a federal court building JULY 31, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Earlier in the morning Dylann Roof, the shooter involved in the June massacre at Emanuel AME Church was arraigned on 33 federal charges, including federal hate crimes. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Charleston, SC - December 6, 2016: Mother Emanuel AME Church photographed Tuesday, Dec. 06, 2016 in Charleston. (Photo by Alex Holt for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Judge J.C. Nicholson makes a point during a hearing on a gag order in the pending trial of Dylann Roof, at the Judicial Center in Charleston, South Carolina July 16, 2015. The South Carolina Press Association is challenging a decision by Judge Nicholson made last week on potential trial participants as well as banning the release of documents in the case, including 911 police dispatch calls, coroner's reports and witness statements. REUTERS/Randall Hill
Photo shows the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during a statement regarding the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015 at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Authorities have arrested 21-year-old Dylann Roof of Lexington County, South Carolina, as a suspect in last night's deadly shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Anthony Thompson, husband of Emanuel Church shooting victim Myra Thompson, leaves the courthouse during a break at the Charleston Federal Courthouse during the federal trial of Dylann Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
A Department of Homeland Security officer prepares to stop traffic as security personnel transport Dylann Roof in a van after a jury sentenced him to death at the Charleston Federal Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Randall Hill
South Carolina shooting suspect Dylann Roof (R) is escorted by police after being detained in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, in this still image from a dash cam video released by the Shelby Police Department June 23, 2015. Roof is accused of murdering nine people in a historic black South Carolina church in Charleston on June 17. REUTERS/Shelby Police Department/Handout THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Dylann Roof is seen in this June 18, 2015 handout booking photo provided by Charleston County Sheriff's Office. REUTERS/Charleston County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
A sign of support is pictured at a makeshift memorial at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, June 20, 2015. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in the historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Judge James Gosnell speaks during a bond hearing for Dylann Roof who appeared in a video feed from jail in North Charleston, S.C. June 19, 2015. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church, police said on Friday, and media reports said he had hoped to incite a race war in the United States. Grace Beahm/The Post and Courier/Pool
Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Jason Miczek
John Strong (C), special agent in charge of the FBI in Charlotte, NC speaks to the media from the Shelby Police Station in Shelby, North Carolina, June 18, 2015. Police captured suspected killer Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old with a criminal record, who is accused of killing nine people at a Bible-study meeting in a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in an attack U.S. officials are investigating as a hate crime. REUTERS/Jason Miczek
Mourners kneel outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 18, 2015 a day after a mass shooting left nine dead during a bible study at the church. Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of having fatally shot nine people at the historic African-American church in South Carolina. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday's attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 18: An exterior view of Emanuel AME Church on June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed on June 17 in a mass shooting during a prayer meeting at the church. A 21-year-old suspect, Dylann Roof of Lexington, South Carolina, was arrersted Thursday during a traffic stop. Emanuel AME Church is one of the oldest in the South. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 18: (L-R) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pray with other members of the US Congress during a prayer circle in front of the US Capitol to honor those gunned down last night inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina, June 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. Police have arrested Dylann Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina in the shooting that killed 9 people. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Police tape is seen outside the Emanuel AME Church, after a mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church the night before in Charleston, South Carolina on June 18, 2015. Police captured a white suspect in a mass killing at one of the oldest black churches in the United States, the latest gun massacre to leave the country reeling. Police detained 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shown wearing the flags of defunct white supremacist regimes in pictures taken from social media, after nine churchgoers were shot dead. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Roof, who is white, told Meek he wanted to start a race war by killing black people at a church, court records show.

But after Roof opened fire during a Bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, slaying nine parishioners, Meek, who is also white, did not promptly report what he knew, prosecutors said.

With Roof on the run, Meek also instructed others not to contact police and later denied to federal agents that he had knowledge of Roof's plans.

"He knew who it was," U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston said before sentencing Meek to 27 months in prison. "He put his own interests ahead of the known dangers to the community."

Prosecutors had sought a stiffer penalty than the 27 to 33 months federal sentencing guidelines called for. Meek was the only other person charged in the shooting. He pleaded guilty in April 2016 to charges of concealing knowledge of the crime and lying to investigators. He agreed to cooperate.

Meek was not called to testify at his childhood friend's trial. Roof was sentenced to death in January after being convicted of 33 charges, including hate crimes and obstruction of religion resulting in death.

The government argued law enforcement could have tried to prevent Roof's attack had Meek alerted them.

Meek's lawyer Deborah Barbier said in court papers that her client, who had a ninth-grade education and history of mental health and substance abuse problems, should not be treated as though he was guilty of Roof's crimes.

Gergel, who oversaw Roof's trial, said Meek's criminal behavior did not begin until after the shooting.

With about a dozen members of the victims' families in court, Meek read a statement expressing his remorse for not taking Roof more seriously.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Andrew Hay and Grant McCool)

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