The Olympic gold medalist who pleaded guilty to obstructing Congress as part of the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 is cooperating with federal authorities and may testify for the government at an upcoming trial.
Klete Keller, 39, was spotted at the Capitol as part of a crowd facing off against police in the rotunda. He appeared to be wearing a jacket that bore the letters “USA” and an Olympic patch.
Keller was a member of U.S. Olympic swim teams in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and, according to ESPN, “he notably held off Australia’s Ian Thorpe to help his team — which featured Michael Phelps — win gold,” during the 2004 games in Athens, Greece.
He pleaded guilty in September to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, under the same statute that multiple defendants have challenged—unsuccessfully, in at least one case—as an improper charge.
Keller’s plea deal includes a cooperation agreement, and prosecutors say that he is already providing useful information.
Keller was in the Capitol building at a “crucial hour” on Jan. 6, Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Edwards Jr. said at a status conference Thursday.
“This provides opportunities for Mr. Keller to provide details that he remembers,” Edwards said. “Apart from his cooperating with the government investigation, he potentially has an opportunity to aid the government in a trial that has been set [regarding individuals] around him that day.”
Keller admitted to unlawfully entering the Capitol at around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, when hundreds of Donald Trump supporters overran police to try to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes and certification of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.
“At the time I entered the Capitol building, I knew that I did not have permission to enter the building, and I believed that I and others were trying to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding,” Keller wrote in his Statement of Offense.
“At the time, I acted to affect the government by stopping or delaying the Congressional proceeding, and, in fact, did so,” he also wrote. “I accomplished this by intimidating or coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting the Congressional proceeding.”
Keller admitted to standing in the crowd facing off against “law enforcement officers clad with riot gear preventing me and others from advancing,” and to yelling “Fuck Nancy Pelosi!” and “Fuck Chuck Schumer!”
He also acknowledged that he jerked his elbow to shake off law enforcement officers who were trying to remove him and other people from the Rotunda.
Keller’s defense attorney, Edward MacMahon Jr., agreed with Edwards that sentencing should be delayed. Both attorneys acknowledged that the case has gone on longer than anticipated, but agreed that holding off on sentencing would be beneficial to both the government and to Keller himself.
“We completely appreciate and respect the Court’s concern that this case has been pending since his arrest in January, and the Court does not wish to have this case and sentencing remain hanging in perpetuity,” Edwards said to Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. However, Edwards noted, imposing a sentence at this point would add logistical restrictions that would make it harder for Keller to cooperate.
Keller’s attorney agreed, saying that the entire process was simply taking longer than both parties had anticipated.
“I do join in Mr. Edwards’ request that we put [sentencing] off for a while so [Keller] can get the full benefit of his cooperation, and so the government can get the full benefit of his cooperation,” MacMahon said.
Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, set the next status conference for March 16, 2022.
[Images via FBI.]
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