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Olympic gold medalist charged in Capitol riots after being spotted in Team USA jacket

Federal prosecutors charged Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic medalist and former teammate of Michael Phelps, for his role in the Jan. 6 riots. (Video: Townhall Media/Julio Rosas)
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Federal prosecutors charged Klete Keller, a five-time Olympic medalist, for his role in last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol, court records show, just days after he was spotted on video wearing a Team USA jacket in the Capitol Rotunda.

Keller was charged with violent entry, obstructing law enforcement and disorderly conduct after FBI agents used video and other evidence to confirm his presence inside the Capitol, records show. Keller was taken into custody and made an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty in Denver, where he was released on a personal recognizance bond.

A decorated swimmer who represented the United States at the Summer Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008, Keller is seen on video towering over other Trump supporters inside the Capitol wearing a Team USA jacket. The video was taken by Townhall reporter Julio Rosas, and Keller’s participation was first reported Monday by SwimSwam, a popular swimming website.

Keller, 38, has made no public comments about his presence at the Capitol. He did not return phone messages or emails seeking comment Monday, and his telephone was no longer accepting messages Tuesday.

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Standing 6-foot-6 and wearing a familiar Olympic jacket, Keller was easy to identify for many swimmers, coaches and officials who had competed with and against him over the years, two of whom told The Washington Post they recognized the maskless Keller in the footage. In the video, he can be seen in the Rotunda, at one point amid a mob of Trump supporters and law enforcement officers pushing against each other.

The criminal charges are consistent with those faced by other Trump supporters arrested since last week, though Keller faces the added charge of impeding an officer.

According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, investigators relied heavily on the footage to identify Keller. At one point in the video, the complaint notes, Keller can be seen “in the Rotunda, and the back of his jacket is again visible." The complaint notes that Keller’s “bearded face is clearly visible” and “he 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 complaint, filed by FBI Special Agent Matthew Barofsky, says investigators were able to confirm Keller’s identity, based in part on his notable height, his high-profile career as an Olympian and a driver’s license photo.

The jacket Keller was wearing at the Capitol — with “USA” printed across the back and an Olympic patch on the front — does not appear to be one from his Olympic days but rather one worn by Team USA members who competed at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

USA Swimming sent a message to its members Wednesday evening that read: “It is very simple and very clear. 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.”

After Keller’s involvement became public, many on social media began calling for him to lose his Olympic medals. The International Olympic Committee is the only entity with that power, and the global governing body for Olympic sports has only stripped athletes of medals for rules violations related to competition. USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee could consider Keller’s future association with Team USA or involvement with alumni activities but wouldn’t likely be able to revisit the record books or his past accomplishments.

On Wednesday, Sarah Hirshland, the USOPC chief executive, said in a statement that the organization will “wait for law enforcement to confirm the identity of the individual and determine necessary action, and then evaluate any appropriate actions of our own.”

“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,” she said. “What happened in Washington, D.C., was a case where that standard was clearly not met."

Keller has deleted his social media accounts, where he reportedly espoused pro-Trump views.

Supporters of President Trump crossed barricades and began marching toward the back of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Video: The Washington Post)

He had been working as an independent contractor for commercial real estate firm Hoff & Leigh in Colorado Springs, but his name and biography were removed from the company’s website late Monday. The company said in a statement Tuesday that Keller had resigned from his position.

“Hoff & Leigh supports the right of free speech and lawful protest,” the statement read, “but we cannot condone actions that violate the rule of law.”

Keller was a top American swimmer for nearly a decade. He anchored the U.S. 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the 2004 Games in Athens, where he memorably beat Australian Ian Thorpe to the wall and won gold for Michael Phelps and his American teammates. Keller helped the U.S. team defend that Olympic title four years later in Beijing, and he also won two Olympic bronze medals and a silver during his decorated racing career.

He trained and competed under some of the sport’s most successful coaches, including Dave Salo at USC and later Bob Bowman and Jon Urbanchek at Michigan.