The man who opened his doors to suspected Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof and later was charged with knowing what Roof planned and not telling authorities was given a reduced bond Thursday afternoon in Columbia.
A judge set a $25,000 surety bond for Joseph “Joey” Meek Jr., 21, of Red Bank, after he was charged for his alleged knowledge of Roof’s plans to open fire on parishioners of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17.
The judge also said Meek, if he posts bail, will be subjected to electronic monitoring, must live with his grandparents and must undergo mental evaluations and drug screenings. He also will not be allowed to communicate with victims or potential witnesses, including his brothers and his girlfriend.
“It is not my job to make a determination of the defendant’s guilt or innocence,” Judge Shiva Hodges said. “That’s for a jury to determine down the road in Charleston.”
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A survivor of the shooting, Felicia Sanders, pleaded with the judge not to reduce Meek’s bond.
“I live my life every day being afraid,” she said.
Sanders survived by playing dead. Her son, Tywanza Sanders, 26, who had recently graduated from Allen University in Columbia, was killed.
Two other victims also addressed the court. Like Sanders, they asked Hodges not to reduce Meek’s bond.
Meek was arrested at work Sept. 17 and has been held since in solitary confinement at the Lexington County Detention Center on a $100,000 secured bond.
Meek’s value to prosecutors, experts have told The State newspaper, is that he could testify to Roof’s habits, whereabouts and state of mind prior to the shooting.
Meek pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned Sept. 18 in federal court in Columbia on charges of misprision of a felony and making a false statement. An indictment made public that day 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.”
When Meek was arrested, he was living in a mobile home in Red Bank, in Lexington County, with his mother, girlfriend and a brother. Roof had stayed with them on and off for several weeks before June 17.
Meek told State newspaper reporters he once took Roof’s gun away from him when Roof was on a drunken rant but gave it back to him later because Meek was on probation and wasn’t supposed to carry a gun. Meek alternately told various media outlets that his friend was or wasn’t a racist but didn’t seem violent.
Meek was told by federal officials Aug. 6 in what’s called a “target letter” that he was under investigation.
The formal charge against Meek is 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’s attorney Deborah Barbier asked Hodges to allow Meek to leave jail on his own personal recognizance. Hodges said that would be the way to handle a misprision charge in a normal case. But she said this isn’t a normal case.
Barbier argued Meek is not a flight risk and has a limited, non-violent criminal history. Meek is on probation. He pleaded guilty this spring to possessing a stolen vehicle, according to Lexington County court records.
Meek also is 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 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.
Authorities say Roof is an avowed white supremacist and that a racist manifesto found online after his arrest was written by him.
Roof grew up in the Columbia area, living in several places in Richland and Lexington counties, is being held in a Charleston jail. He was indicted by a federal grand jury July 22 on federal hate crime and murder charges. In state court, Roof faces the death penalty.
Staff writer John Monk contributed.