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US Olympic champion pleads guilty to obstructing Congress

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Klete Keller, a two-time gold medalist with the US Olympic swim team, pleaded guilty to participating in the January 6, 2021 attack on Congress by Trump supporters./AFP
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Sep 30, 2021 - 12:11 PM

WASHINGTON — Klete Keller, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the US swim team, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to participating in the January 6 attack on Congress by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Keller, 39, admitted in a plea agreement to breaching the US Capitol to try to obstruct the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November presidential election victory.

Keller, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Washington to one count of obstructing Congress, a felony.

Sentencing guidelines for the offense are between 21 and 27 months in prison, but Keller is likely to receive a lighter sentence. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $2,000.

Charges of violent and disorderly conduct were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea.

Keller was filmed as part of the mob that illegally entered the Capitol after breaking through police lines.

Police identified the three-time Olympian from the official team jacket he was wearing bearing the logo “USA” and an arm patch that read “United States Olympic team.”

Keller told law enforcement that he threw away the jacket after entering the Capitol and destroyed the phone and memory card that contained photographs and videos he recorded inside the building.

Keller competed in the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008, taking two golds and a silver in the 4×200 meter freestyle relays, and two bronzes in the individual 400m freestyle.

His 2004 relay gold in Athens was one of the most celebrated races in swimming, with a US team that included Michael Phelps against an Australian foursome led by Ian Thorpe.

In the anchor position, Keller was able to hold off a surging Thorpe for the win, ending years of Australian dominance in the event.

Keller’s life after the Olympics was rocky, with a divorce, multiple lost jobs, and a plunge into homelessness and living out of his car for a time, he told The Olympic Channel in a 2018 podcast.

According to the Justice Department, more than 600 people have been arrested in connection with the storming of the  Capitol, including 185 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

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