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Sentencing delayed for Roof’s friend as he apologizes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The sentencing of Dylann Roof’s friend for failing to report on his plans to kill black worshippers at a Charleston church is being delayed after prosecutors asked for a stiffer sentence.

Joey Meek was supposed to face U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday, but Gergel ruled on Tuesday that his lawyers could have about two weeks to respond to prosecutors, who called this week for a harsher sentence.

A defense motion made public Tuesday said the federal sentencing guidelines for Meek call for 27 to 33 months in prison. He is seeking a shorter sentence. The maximum is eight years behind bars.

The court papers included Meek’s handwritten notes to the families of each of the nine people killed by Roof who was sentenced to death for the June 2015 massacre during a Bible study at Emanuel AME church. Each letter ends with Meek writing: “I ask for your forgiveness, but I don’t expect it.”

Also in the papers is a statement the 22-year-old high school dropout will likely read in court. He apologizes several times, said he fears he won’t make it out of prison alive because someone will kill him for associating with Roof and he 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.”

The conversation about Roof’s plans occurred about a week before the shootings when both were drinking and using cocaine, Meek’s lawyer Deborah Barbier wrote in her motion.

Prosecutors have asked for the stiffer sentence in part because Meek didn’t call the FBI when he heard about the shootings and encouraged others not to call. Barbier said Meek was on probation for a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen goods, was immature and nervous and made a bad decision trying to stay out of trouble.

“Joey’s inability to appreciate Roof’s intent, ability and determination to carry out these horrific crimes was a failure he will live with the rest of his life,” Barbier wrote.

Meek agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors when he pleaded guilty in April 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 then Roof put up only a minimum defense during his trial and Meek was never mentioned.

Meek and Roof were childhood friends who drifted apart in high school, but reconnected in the months before the church massacre.

Prosecutors said Meek needs a harsher sentence to serve as an example and to adequately reflect the horrible crimes that happened because he did not report what he and Roof had talked about.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins .

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