Meek's mental issues, letters to Emanuel families reveal more about friend of Dylann Roof

Days before government prosecutors filed a motion seeking an upward variance to Joey Meek's prison sentence, Meek's attorney filed a sealed motion asking that the friend of condemned church shooter Dylann Roof be admitted to the state's Turning Leaf program.

Meek faces up to eight years in prison for lying to investigators about Dylann Roof's plan to attack a black church in Charleston.

Federal prosecutors want him to serve more time.

The nearly 100-page filing explains Meek's long-standing battle with mental health issues and notes a childhood filled with domestic violence, instability, and drug abuse.

Meek's attorney Deborah Barbier said in the unsealed filing that Meek "failed to appreciate that Dylann Roof was actually going to carry out the extreme crimes he described while they were both under the influence of cocaine and alcohol."

He expresses the same thing in a statement to the court, also unsealed on Tuesday.

"The night I heard the things Dylann was saying I didn’t pay much attention to it because we were both drinking and high on drugs. I didn’t believe he could do something so awful and cruel," he wrote.

Barbier goes on to say that Meek was also incapable of assessing Roof's threats as a serious cause for concern as she explained Meek's mental state and family history.

According to Barbier, Meek moved around a lot as a small child and lived in nearly a dozen states due in part to his father's military service and also due to her mother's relationships with men in other states.

After his parent's divorced and his mother remarried, domestic violence became a way of life for Meek, the filings shows.

"One of Joey’s most vivid childhood memories is that of picture day in middle school. He arrived at school distraught and embarrassed by the red marks on his neck from his step-father choking him the night before," it reads.

Complicating matters for Meek, he was diagnosed with mental disorders and started taking pills for his disorders as early as 9 years old. In adulthood, therapy and prescription medication were supplemented with illicit drugs, including cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, prescription pills and “Molly."

Since the shooting at Emanuel by Roof, his arrest, and subsequent release, Meek has been busy working roughly 40 hours a week, sometimes at two jobs Barbier notes.

A note to the court from the general manager at Lizard's Thicket in Irmo where Meek is currently employed describes him as "a valued member of [the] team."

"Joseph is very receptive when being counseled by the management team on procedures of the restaurant. He is willing to help wheneger and wherever needed. Joseph does this all while being upbeat and personable," said Brian Smith in the letter to the court.

SPECIAL SECTION: The Emanuel AME Shooting

Included in the unsealed filing are handwritten letters to the family members of the Emanuel AME shooting victims.

"I apologize for the act of violence that happened and for the role that I played," he writes in a letter to Tywanza Sanders' family. "He showed selflessness, love, and maturity during tragic incident."

All of the letters are similar; Meek expresses his sorrow, mentions the contributions of the deceased, and again expresses his sorrow, adding that he is praying for them.

He closes each one with the same line: "I ask for your forgiveness but I don't expect it. Sincerely, Joey Meek."

His grandparents, mother, and sister include other letters to the court asking for a lighter sentence. Even Meek asks to serve out his sentence outside the walls of a federal prison.

"If I was to not return to my family today and have to leave them, then I would feel hopeless. I wouldn’t have a job anymore that I’ve had for the longest in my life. I don’t know if I will make it out of prison alive and that scares me," he writes.

Barbier says in the filing that Meek, because he is associated with Roof, could not go into general population with the expectation of safely serving his time. Instead, he would have to be moved into solitary confinement, much like he was while lodged at the Lexington County jail after his arrest in 2015 stemming from the Emanuel shooting.

Instead, Barbier suggests allowing Meek to go into the Turning Leaf program in Charleston.

The goal of the Turning Leaf Project is to reduce rates of re-incarceration by educating inmates on the impact crimes have on victims as well as provide a "cognitive behavioral education."

The first phase of the program encourages the inmates to take responsibility for their actions and make amends. Victims are invited to the classroom to share their stories which can also help in their own recovery and closure.

The second phase of the program focuses on changing the behavior that leads to crime in the first place.

"If I was allowed to serve my sentence outside of jail, I would be very grateful. I’d continue to do what’s right to support my family and help my community as well. I would like to be a volunteer firefighter, if I had the chance and time to," Meek writes.

And if he had to do it all over again, he would have called police as soon as Roof started talking about hurting others, Meek says.

"I would like to tell people that if someone is talking about doing something to harm people, take them seriously and call the police. Do whatever it takes to make sure that person is stopped and gets help," he writes.

Meek's sentencing hearing has been postponed. A new date has not been set.

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