WASHINGTON — A five-time Olympic swimming medalist pleaded guilty to taking part in the Capitol riot on Wednesday – becoming the 90th person to do so in the case.
Klete Keller, 38, who won two Olympic gold medals on the same relay team as Michael Phelps, appeared in-person in D.C. District Court Wednesday before Judge Richard J. Leon to enter a plea of guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding – a felony count with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Keller’s attorney, Edward MacMahon, told Leon the plea with the government included an agreement to cooperate with investigators while he awaits sentencing. In exchange, the Justice Department has agreed to drop the remaining six charges he faces. He faces a recommended sentence of 15-21 months in prison.
Keller was charged in January and indicted the following month on seven counts in connection with the riot, including obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder. In court documents, federal investigators say Keller was identified in part because he wore a USA jacket with his U.S. Olympic Team patch on it while he stormed the Capitol Building.
Surveillance images and other public video show Keller, standing above nearly everyone else in the crowd at 6’6”, in the middle of a mob of rioters inside the Capitol Rotunda squaring off with a line of police. While inside the building, the DOJ says Keller blocked police and yelled expletives about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then yanked his arm away from police trying to force him to leave. Prosecutors said Keller also destroyed the phone and memory card he was using to take video and photos inside the Capitol, as well as the jacket that helped investigators ID him.
MacMahon said Wednesday Keller was “trying to make amends for the terrible decision he made on January 6.”
The Associated Press reported Keller had trouble adjusting to post-Olympic life. He had been through a divorce and experienced a period of homelessness, and was working as a real estate contractor in Colorado at the time of his arrest.
After his arrest in January, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee released a statement denouncing the Capitol riot, although not mentioning Keller by name. He last competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games.
The DOJ requested a deferred sentencing to allow the government time to question Keller, adding he could potentially be called upon to testify at the trials of other defendants. Leon agreed to a limited deferment period and set a status conference for December 16, saying he didn’t want to give the government a “blank check.”
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