ATLANTA — Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of Dylann S. Roof, the man charged with killing nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., has agreed to cooperate with the authorities and plead guilty in his own criminal case. He is charged with lying to federal investigators and concealing information about the June 17 attack.
The plea agreement, which was filed in federal court Monday in Charleston, states that Mr. Meek has agreed to be “fully truthful and forthright with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies” and provide “full, complete and truthful information” about crimes he knows of. He agreed to testify in court proceedings, and submit to polygraph tests, if requested by the government.
If prosecutors determine that Mr. Meek’s cooperation is “substantial,” the agreement says, they will petition the court to be more lenient in sentencing him. Mr. Meek, 21, faces a maximum of eight years in prison for the two charges: misprision of a felony, which means concealing knowledge of a crime, and making a false statement.
Mr. Roof, 22, who appeared to be enamored of white supremacist symbolism and ideology, unleashed his attack on members of the historicEmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, after he had asked to join the weekly Bible study class held in the fellowship hall of the church, located in downtown Charleston.
J. Stephen Schmutz, a Charleston lawyer who represents family members of three of the slain victims — Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton — said Monday that the families were in “total support” of the plea deal, and expected that it could produce valuable information about Mr. Roof.
“He’s a witness,” Mr. Schmutz said. “He spent a lot of time with Roof immediately before this happened.”
Mr. Schmutz said it was likely that Mr. Meek would be called to testify in Mr. Roof’s capital murder trial in state court, which has been delayed until January.
Mr. Meek’s cooperation with the federal authorities will probably also aid them in their separate case against Mr. Roof, in which he faces 33 counts, including hate crime charges, as well as charges of killing people while obstructing religious freedom. That charge carries a possible death sentence, though the federal government has not decided whether to seek it.
The federal indictment against Mr. Meek, an air-conditioning repairman, states that the day after the massacre, he made false statements to an F.B.I. agent when he said that “he did not know the specifics of Dylann Roof’s plan to shoot individuals on a Wednesday, during Bible study, at an A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C.”
The indictment also alleges that Mr. Meek committed a crime when he failed to share his knowledge “of the actual commission of a felony” with the authorities.
The two young men had known each other since childhood. The month before the shootings, they spent time together in a trailer home in Lexington County, S.C., where Mr. Meek lived with family members.
The day after the shooting, Mr. Meek said that Mr. Roof had spoken in favor of racial segregation, and said that he wanted to “hurt a whole bunch of people” and was “planning to do something crazy.”
Mr. Meek said he did not take such comments seriously at first, but eventually grew worried and hid Mr. Roof’s .45-caliber handgun. Later, he said, at the urging of his girlfriend, Mr. Meek returned the gun to Mr. Roof because Mr. Meek was on probation and did not want to get in trouble.
Mr. Meek was freed on bond in November.