Former U.S. Olympic Swimmer Klete Keller Charged In Capitol Attack

Jan 14, 2021
Originally published on January 14, 2021 6:02 pm

Updated at 9:02 p.m. ET

Klete Keller, the Olympic gold medalist swimmer, is facing federal charges in connection with the insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol.

He has been released from custody without posting bond but with orders to stay away from Washington, D.C., except for court hearings and to consult with his lawyers, according to The Associated Press. He appeared before a federal judge in Denver.

Keller faces three criminal counts, according to court documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: obstructing law enforcement, knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

In a separate case, authorities have arrested a retired firefighter, Robert Sanford of suburban Philadelphia, and charged him with assaulting Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher during the insurrection. This apparently is a different incident from the one that fatally injured Officer Brian Sicknick.

Keller's Colorado driver's license photo from 2019.
U.S. District Court

Keller, 38, was part of U.S. Olympic teams in 2000, 2004 and 2008. He is perhaps best known for holding off Australia's Ian Thorpe while swimming the anchor leg of the 4x200-meter freestyle at the 2004 Athens Olympics to help his team win by 0.13 seconds.

That relay team also included Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

The FBI said Keller's jacket helped identify him. According to court documents, he was wearing a blue jacket with "USA" on the back and a "red and white Olympic patch on the front left side."

Investigators also noted Keller's striking height. He stands at 6 feet and 6 inches.

"PERSON 1 stands taller than a number of individuals around him and can clearly be seen as law enforcement officers repeatedly attempt to remove him and others from the Rotunda," the charging document filed by Special Agent Matthew Barofsky said.

A screenshot allegedly identifies Keller in the Rotunda during the U.S. Capitol insurrection. The FBI identified him in part because he was wearing a blue jacket with "USA" on the back, court documents say.
U.S. District Court

Investigators said conservative news site Townhall Media posted a video of a crowd at the Capitol. Then outlets such as SwimSwam, which follows competitive swimming, said it appeared Keller was in the video, according to the charging documents.

Federal authorities said they confirmed his identification by comparing screenshots of Keller with the image from his driver's license from Colorado's Department of Motor Vehicles.

USA Swimming, the U.S. governing body of competitive swimming, said in a statement to its membership Wednesday that "while we respect private individuals' and groups' rights to peacefully protest, we strongly condemned the unlawful actions taken by those at the Capitol last week."

The U.S. men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay team members (from left) Peter Vanderkaay, Keller, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps celebrate after winning the gold medal at the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia, in 2007.
Mark Baker / AP

"It is very simple and very clear," USA Swimming said in the statement shared with NPR. "Mr. Keller's actions in no way represent the values or mission of USA Swimming. And while once a swimmer at the highest levels of our sport — representing the country and democracy he so willfully attacked — Mr. Keller has not been a member of this organization since 2008."

Keller reacts after a men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay heat during the swimming competitions at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Thomas Kienzle / AP

Keller won five medals during his three Olympic appearances — two gold medals, one silver and two bronze.

Read the charging documents below:

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