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September 23, 2014

Utah Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crime for Threatening Interracial Family

WASHINGTON—The Department of Justice announced that Robert Keller, 70, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah today to a federal civil rights crime related to interfering with the housing rights of three members of an interracial family because of the family member’s races and because the family members were living in a home while associating with an African American family member in Hurricane, Utah.

During the plea proceedings, Keller admitted that on Dec. 30, 2013, he wrote a note to two Caucasian family members of an interracial family threatening to kill them if they did not make their African American family member leave their home. Keller admitted that he used threats of force to willfully intimidate and interfere with the two Caucasian family members because they were occupying a dwelling while associating with their African American family member.

“Members of our community have a constitutional right to live in their home without fear, and the department will not tolerate threats of violence that infringe on that right,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran for the Civil Rights Division.

“Hate based crimes have no place in America,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christen for the District of Utah. “They not only hurt the individuals who are the object of such hate, but tear at the fabric of our society as a whole. In this case, the defendant’s attempt to rid his neighborhood of an African-American member of an interracial family serves as a horrifying reminder that racial intolerance stills exists in some communities. This conviction sends a clear message that such despicable acts will not be tolerated by this office, but will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Sentencing is scheduled for December 1st and the defendant faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

This case is being investigated by the Salt Lake City Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in cooperation with the Hurricane City Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant United States Attorney Carlos Esqueda of the District of Utah.

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