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Friday, November 26, 2021

Olympic gold medalist swimmer admits to January 6 charge

by Hannah Rabinowitz and Marshall Cohen | CNN

Olympic gold medalist Clete Keller pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a felony charge of obstructing Electoral College proceedings — and in a surprise move, potentially cooperating with the Justice Department and testifying against other alleged rioters. planned to give.

The deal with Keller suggests prosecutors may try to use her as a star witness in upcoming trials, her appearance as a decorated athlete who won gold medals in swimming at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics. Banking on notoriety.

Keller was arrested in January and charged with seven crimes. Other charges will be dropped as part of the plea deal. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge that could potentially lead to prison, although he could have reduced his sentence by helping prosecutors.

Until now, the only rioters who made cooperation deals were members of extremist groups who could testify against their fellow members.

Investigators identified Keller, 38, when he was seen in video footage inside the Capitol wearing his US Olympic team jacket. Keller, who is 6-foot-6, stands above the other rioters in the footage, prosecutors said during Wednesday’s hearing, making it easier for investigators to trace his movements during the hour he spent inside the Capitol.

Prosecutors said during the hearing that at one point, Keller turned against police, yelling about Democratic lawmakers and attempting to drive officers out of the building.

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In the days following the riots, Keller destroyed phones and memory cards he had brought to Washington, prosecutors said. He also threw on his US Olympic team jacket.

Keller’s attorney, Edward McMahon, told the judge, “He is clearly trying to make amends for the terrible decision he made on January 6. “He is ashamed of what he did that day and wants to make amends for the court and the American people.”

The Justice Department and Keller agreed to delay the sentencing until they finished assisting investigators.

Keller has won five Olympic swimming medals, including two relay gold. He is best known for anchoring the winning US team, which included Michael Phelps, in the 4×200 m freestyle relay at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, in which he defeated gold medalist Ian Thorpe of Australia.

In a January statement to CNN, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it condemned the rioters’ actions.

“We support the right to protest peacefully and to express values ​​and perspectives in a respectful and legitimate way – this is what makes our democracy strong. Sadly, this did not happen in this case,” the organization said. .

Prosecutors have charged at least 615 people in connection with the Capitol riots. Ninety defendants have pleaded guilty so far, most of whom have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.

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