The goal of the Olympic Movement is to help to build a “peaceful and better world” through a spirit of “friendship, solidarity and fair play,” but such ideals appear to be lost on the tall, bearded man shown sporting a Team USA jacket as he towers over a crowd of protesters and police in a video of a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol.
That signature jacket, and that height, made the job easier for federal prosecutors who set out to identify and charge the man — former U.S. Olympic swimmer and Colorado Springs resident Klete Keller — with offenses including Obstructing Law Enforcement Engaged In Official Duties Incident to Civil Disorder, and Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on U.S. Capitol Grounds.
The warrant, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., comes as federal authorities continue a campaign to identify and charge those who participated in the Jan. 6 riot that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police Officer, and led to a historic second impeachment Wednesday for President Donald Trump, widely blamed for fanning the flames.
Keller, 38, was outed as the man in the video earlier this week by sport news outlet SwimSwam, after being recognized by colleagues and former coaches who had seen video of the clash inside the Capitol. Federal prosecutors turned to SwimSwam’s report and the same footage, captured by conservative political news outfit Townhall Media, to make their case.
“Colorado state records and publicly available information list KELLER’s height at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and PERSON 1 appears to be one of the tallest individuals in the video depicting individuals in the Rotunda,” the complaint said. In addition, “open-source research revealed that KELLER is a three-time Olympic athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist, and PERSON 1 appears to be wearing a United States Olympic Team jacket in the video showing him in the Rotunda.”
As of Wednesday night, the Gazette had not been able to confirm whether Keller had been taken into custody. Efforts to reach Keller this week have been unsuccessful.
In a letter to Team USA members before the warrant for Keller was issued, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said the organization “strongly condemned” the “horrific acts” at the Capitol.
“They do not represent the values of the United States of America or of Team USA,” Hirshland said. “At home, and around the world, Team USA athletes are held to a very high standard as they represent our country on the field of play and off. What happened in Washington, D.C., was a case where that standard was clearly not met.”
A Nevada native, Keller competed in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics, and brought home two gold medals competing as a teammate of Michael Phelps. His post-Olympic career, though, took a dark turn, through divorce and unemployment and a low that saw the multiple medal winner living in his car, according to reporting by NBC Sports.
After settling in the Springs, in 2018, Keller found work as an independent broker with commercial real estate firm Hoff and Leigh. On Tuesday, the agency announced he had resigned from the firm, effective immediately.
“Hoff & Leigh supports the right of free speech and lawful protest but we cannot condone actions that violate the rule of law,” the company’s statement said. “We pride ourselves on our deeply held core values of family, loyalty, community and stewardship. We continue to stand by these values.”
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According to the USA Swimming Code of Conduct, athletes convicted of certain crimes would be in violation and face review and adjudication by the national governing body. Because Keller is no longer actively competing, such a process wouldn’t apply.
The USOPC doesn’t have the authority to strip athletes’ medals, which are issued by the International Olympic Committee. There is no precedent of an Olympian being asked to return a medal for misdeeds committed outside competition.
Three-time swimming gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar said she understands the struggles her fellows face when trying to find their place in a world beyond the rings. But that’s no excuse.
“Klete Keller thought his ‘Olympian’ status and gear would entitle him to respect as he participated in sedition and insurrection,” wrote Hogshead-Makar, in a public Facebook post Wednesday. “Just the opposite… Olympians are held to a higher standard, and being an Olympian amplifies bad behavior. Participating in a democracy-overthrowing-riot inside the U.S. Capitol qualifies.”