March 21 (UPI) -- Joey Meek, an acquaintance of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison for failing to tell authorities about Roof's planned hate crime.
Richard Gergel, judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, on Tuesday handed down Meek's sentence. He said Charleston was fortunate Roof did not commit more violence after Meek deliberately stopped someone from reporting Roof's suspected involvement in the church shooting because Meek was more focused on avoiding trouble.
Meek, 22, previously pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony (concealment of knowledge) and a lesser charge of lying to federal agents. Federal prosecutors argued that Meek should get more than the minimum sentence of 27 to 33 months in prison because of the "horrible nature" of the crime -- an argument denied by the court. The maximum sentence is eight years.
"He put his own interests ahead of ... the interests of the community," Gergel said. "The danger he exposed this community to was extraordinary.
"We want other people in a similar situation to make the right decision that this defendant did not," Gergel added.
Prior to sentencing, Meek apologized to family members of Roof's victims.
"I'm really sorry a lot of innocent lives were taken," Meek said.
On March 13, Gergel said Meek did not break the law before the slayings because he did not cover it up. He violated the law only after the massacre when he told others not to report that Roof was the likely killer.
Court documents show Roof told Meek he planned to attend a Bible study at a black church in Charleston and "attack innocent persons" there before killing himself. Meek also knew Roof had a gun.
Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist, was found guilty of dozens of charges related to the June 17, 2015, shooting at a Bible study session at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Roof was sentenced to death on Jan. 10.
Meek learned about the shooting that night on social media. He told a friend "not to call law enforcement, apparently fearing that his prior knowledge might make him subject to criminal prosecution," Gergel said.
South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pickney, 41, who was also a pastor at the church; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, died in the attack.
Allen Cone contributed to this report.