- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A friend of the man sentenced to die for gunning down nine black parishioners during a Bible study in a South Carolina church is scheduled to learn his own fate next month.

A sentencing hearing for Joey Meek has been slated for February 28 in Charleston’s federal court, according to information filed online Thursday.

Meek, 22, pleaded guilty last year to charges that he knew for six months that Dylann Roof had been planning the attack on parishioners at Emanuel AME Church, that he had a gun and would carry extra ammunition in an attempt to start a race war.

According to federal prosecutors, Meek denied to the FBI in an initial interview having any knowledge about the mass shooting beforehand, but later changed his story.

The plea marked the first conviction in a mass killing that stunned the nation, reignited discussions about race relations and led to the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. Roof had previously posed for photos with a Confederate battle flag.

Meek faces a possible prison sentence of eight years, although prosecutors have said they would argue for a shorter sentence if Meek cooperated in their case against Roof. It’s not clear what assistance was provided by Meek, who did not testify in Roof’s federal trial last year on 33 federal charges.

Earlier this month, Roof, 22, was sentenced to execution in the federal case. He still faces a second death penalty trial in state court.

When Meek pleaded guilty last year, his lawyer said her client had sought psychiatric treatment. Later asking to delay his sentencing, attorney Debbie Barbier said she planned to file a letter from a psychiatrist.

That information was filed under seal, meaning it’s not available to the public. That was also the case for many of the motions filed in Roof’s federal trial, including transcripts of his two competency hearings.

This week, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel set deadlines for motions as to whether some of that information should be unsealed in Roof’s case.

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Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read more of her work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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