The one-year anniversary of the Capitol riots was Thursday, Jan. 6. In 2021 under the guise of patriotism and democracy a mob of more than 700 forced their way inside the U.S. Capitol, causing members of the House and Senate to lock down and seek refuge. As the individuals involved began to be identified and hundreds of them charged criminally, it was revealed former US Olympic swimmer Klete Keller was one of the participants.
“I know that I did not have permission to enter the building” and “I believed that I and others were trying to obstruct, influence, and impede” Congress certifying the election.
That was Keller’s admission to the criminal offense. How did he wind up there?
Keller graduated from USC and during the 2000s was one of the best freestyle swimmers in the world. He represented the US in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympic Games and won two gold medals.
Standing at 6 feet 6 and wearing his Team USA-issued jacket, Keler was seen on surveillance video inside the Capitol during the riot. Though he did not hurt anyone or damage any property he was charged with felony obstruction and pleaded guilty.
Following his retirement from swimming Keller’s life spiraled downward. He couldn’t hold down a job. Got divorced and was living in his car for 10 months. There was also a contentious child custody battle, and allegations of erratic behavior.
In October 2020 his ex-wife testified in court that he attempted suicide and, after they separated, pinned her against a wall and asked whether she had “ever heard of marital rape.”
Keller denied the allegation.
In recent years he had settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is home to the United States Olympic Training Center. Perhaps being in a town where he had good memories would help. He began a real estate career and got engaged. But people around him noticed behavior that didn’t quite add up.
He became increasingly politicized and took an aggressive posture on social media in the months before last Jan. 6.
“He definitely fell in with the wrong crowd, but I would use that more if my teenager started making bad choices,” said Daniel Soteres, a doctor who befriended Keller. “There’s something darker about what happened with Klete.”
His ex-wife Cari Sherrill tells the story of a man beset by an inability to function as an adult in the real world away from the benefits of being a professional athlete. She says he was unable to hold down jobs, lied for years, and suffered with mental health issues.
“I found out that Klete actually didn’t have a job,” she told the court during the child custody trial. “He had been lying to me and driving around as if going to work. … He was not able to adjust from having everyone cater to him and do things for him to having to do them for himself.”
Keller continued to have poor interactions with his ex-wife and the custody arrangements for his children appeared to cause him stress, although his inability to hold down a job and show stability was the reason for the custody arrangements as they stood.
Sherrill, who has since remarried, alleges that Keller stalked her and her family and Keller’s twins would often defend their mother as he would become verbally abusive.
On a visit with his kids just before the Capitol riots Sherrill alleges that Keller told the twins that he might not come visit them anymore and it was “their fault.”
A few weeks later he flew to Washington, D.C.
In the aftermath of the riot Keller destroyed his cellphone, deleted his social media accounts, and threw away his Team USA jacket. An obvious sign of guilt.
As part of his guilty plea, Keller won’t be sentenced until his cooperation with the government is finished. At sentencing he could face 21 to 27 months in federal prison.