Three-time Olympian Klete Keller pleads guilty in Capitol Riot case


Klete Keller, a three-time US swimming Olympian, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a felony charge related to his role in the Jan.6 storming of Capitol Hill with the intention of stopping the Electoral College’s certification of the vote.

Keller was charged with seven counts, but under a deal with prosecutors he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to one count of obstructing proceedings official before Congress. As part of the deal, Keller pledged to help law enforcement with any ongoing investigation into the attack on Capitol Hill.

More than 600 people were arrested in connection with the events of January 6, but Keller was one of the most recognizable, due to his 6-foot-6 frame and the fact that he was wearing an Olympic team jacket. with “USA” printed on the back.

According to his plea, Keller spent about an hour in the Capitol building on January 6. He shouted curses at Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader; took photos and videos; and “shook his elbow” to avoid law enforcement officers trying to get him out of the building, according to the plea. He then destroyed the phone and a memory card he had with him, according to the plea, and threw away the jacket that made him so recognizable.

No sentencing date has been set. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, but the first rioter on Capitol Hill to plead guilty to the same charge was sentenced to eight months.

Keller, 39, was a free swimmer who competed in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He won five medals in total, including two gold in relay races, most memorable in Athens in 2004 when the American men beat the seemingly unbeatable Australians in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

But Keller has struggled to move on to life beyond swimming, according to friends, family and former teammates who spoke to The New York Times. He and his wife divorced and fought for custody of their three children, and for almost a year Keller lived in his car. Throughout 2020, his since-deleted social media accounts have shown an increasingly intense focus on politics and a strong allegiance to former President Donald J. Trump. Last November, while working for a real estate company in Colorado Springs, he traveled to Washington for a pro-Trump rally called the Million MAGA March.

Two months later, the trip led to Keller screaming in the Capitol Rotunda with hundreds of others. He was arrested the following week and has since been released from prison on personal bail. Keller said next to nothing publicly other than a few words in court, and Wednesday’s plea was the most detailed account he gave of his actions on Jan.6 and his reason for being on Capitol Hill.

Keller’s attorney, Edward B. MacMahon Jr., did not immediately respond to a phone message left on Wednesday.

Alan Feuer contributed reporting.

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