The man who opened his doors this spring to suspected Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof was arraigned in federal court in Columbia Friday morning on concealing evidence of a felony and lying to an FBI agent.
Joseph “Joey” Meek Jr., 21, of Red Bank, pleaded not guilty and is being held at the Lexington County Detention Center pending the posting of a $100,000 secured bond and a background check by federal probation officials.
An indictment made public Friday alleged that Meek knew about Roof’s plans to shoot African-American parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston before the June 17 killings and that he “did not, as soon as possible, make known the same to some judge or other person in civil authority under the United States.”
The indictment also alleged that on June 18, a day after the shootings, Meek told an FBI agent “that he did not know specifics of Dylann Roof’s plan,” to kill people at the church. The document alleged that “Meek’s statements and representations denying such specifics were false, fictitious and fraudulent when made.”
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Meek, dressed in an orange Lexington County Detention Center jumpsuit, was manacled hand and foot in shiny metal chains. During most of the 20-minute hearing, he sat at the defense table beside his lawyer, Deborah Butcher of Camden.
Meek was taken into custody by FBI agents while he was at work Thursday afternoon, his girlfriend, Lindsey Fry, told The State newspaper shortly afterward.
The formal charge against Meek was misprision, which means the concealment of knowledge about a crime from authorities after or as the crime is being committed. It carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison upon conviction. Misprision has to be an active concealment of information about a crime from a law enforcement officer, not just keeping silent. Meek is also facing an additional five years in prison if he is convicted of making false statements.
It’s unclear when and for how long Meek is accused of knowing about Roof’s plans or Roof’s actions, and what kind of window of opportunity he had to report such knowledge to authorities. Meek has told The State newspaper that he last saw Roof the morning of the shootings and called authorities the next morning, after he recognized Roof on video surveillance tapes on television.
It’s also unclear what Meek might have told an FBI agent on June 18, the day after the shootings, that caused federal prosecutors to charge him with lying.
Since the shootings, Meek has given numerous interviews to reporters from local, national and international organizations. Although he has said he was aware of Roof’s inflammatory, racially charged statements, he has denied having specific knowledge of Roof’s plans.
Before the hearing, Meek wiped tears from his eyes and mostly looked straight ahead or down at the table in front of him. He looked back at his family several times, turning away each time while shaking his head. Meek’s mother, Kim Konzny, was also visibly shaken, fighting back tears as her son sat a few feet in front of her.
At the hearing’s end, Meek turned, gave a quick thumb’s up sign to his mother and turned back around.
Apparently aware of Meek’s tendency to talk to people, Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges told him that whatever he might say to his lawyer was confidential but those discussions would lose their confidential privilege if Meek started telling other people about those conversations.
Butcher asked Hodges in setting bond to consider that Meek was not a flight risk since he has extensive family ties to the Columbia area.
Meek has a 10th grade education, was a Junior ROTC student and has lived in the Columbia area 12 years, she said. His father lives in Elgin and his grandparents live in Irmo, Butcher said.
“I do believe he will definitely be where he needs to be when requested to,” Butcher said, telling the judge that Meek has always made his court appearances in connection with earlier state charges lodged against him in Lexington County. Those charges include taking someone else’s car without permission and second-degree burglary. He is currently on probation, state records show.
During the hearing, Hodges read Meek the full contents of the two-count indictment for misprision and making false statements.
“Mr. Meek, I would advise you that these charges are serious and you need to have competent counsel representing you in federal court,” Hodges told Meek.
Meek was informed in an Aug. 6 letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia that he was a “potential target” of the federal criminal investigation, The State newspaper reported Wednesday.
Roof stayed with the Meek family on and off in the weeks before the June 17 Charleston shootings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson recommended a secured bond for Meek because of his prior criminal record, his delay in responding to the target letter and his apparently unwillingness to be interviewed by the federal probation office for a pretrial services report. A secured bond means the person putting up the bond would forfeit the whole of the property or the cash offered as the guarantee for Meek’s future court appearances if Meek didn’t show up.
A probation official told Hodges that Meek hadn’t refused to be interviewed but that he did not want to be interviewed without his attorney.
Butcher countered that Meek hadn’t properly understood the target letter or its significance.
Butcher urged that the bond be kept low, saying that Meek has a stepmother who is willing to be a third party to the bond but that “He does not come from a family of means.”
Hodges left open the possibility that Meek eventually could be represented by a court-appointed federal public defender at taxpayer expense, and Butcher indicated she did not know whether she would be representing Meek through any trial or plea.
A federal grand jury indicted Meek on Tuesday. FBI agents arrested him Thursday at his workplace Friday morning, officials disclosed the indictment and announced the arraignment.
Read the indictments against Meek below.