ST. GEORGE – A Hurricane man was arrested on a federal warrant Tuesday after failing to appear in court in Salt Lake City. The man faces federal charges related to an alleged hate crime from December 2013 in which he threatened an interracial family.
Robert Keller, 70, of Hurricane, was arrested by federal agents after twice failing to respond to a summons to appear in federal district court, Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney, said in an email. The first scheduled appearance was for May 12, with the second set for May 19.
“Mr. Keller failed to appear for initial appearance,” Rydalch said. “We agreed (an) agent would reach out to see if the summons had been served and to make sure he knew when the next court date was.”
When Keller failed to appear a second time, a warrant was issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn J. Furse at the U.S. Attorney’s request, Rydalch said. Keller will make an appearance in federal district court on Thursday.
According to booking information, Keller was taken into custody by the FBI.
Keller faces two misdemeanor charges related to interfering with another person’s right to fair housing via threats of intimidation, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney. In this case, the man is accused of leaving threatening notes for an interracial family at the the Quail Lake Estates in Hurricane.
According to a probable cause statement, a Hurricane City Police officer responded to a call from the Quail Lake Estates on Dec. 30, 2013, where one of the victims showed him a letter that had been left at the housing complex’s clubhouse. The envelope had her name and her husband’s name written on it. The person who had written the letter made threats against the woman’s family for raising and living with an African American. The woman told the police that her brother, who is of African descent, had moved in with them several weeks earlier.
Language in the letter referred to the woman’s brother by using the N-word. He, along with the others, were also threatened. “If I catch that…around my daughter, I’ll kill his…and then come find what stupid person brought him here in the first place,” the person behind the letter wrote. That person also wrote that the couple was “headed for some big trouble and you won’t like the outcome,” according to the probable cause statement.
Another note, one left on the family’s car two days prior, allegedly said no blacks were allowed in the area and the couple should move to Africa if they wanted to live with and raise a black individual.
Keller was ultimately identified by the victims as being the man who placed the letter at the clubhouse after the victims watched surveillance footage. The officer contacted Keller who, according to the probable cause statement, admitted writing the letter. He also apparently told the officer he moved from Salt Lake City to Southern Utah in order to get away from “them,” referring to black people.
Keller was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on a misdemeanor charge related to violating the family’s civil rights. Keller pleaded not guilty to the charge. He was also able to post bail and leave Purgatory.
No new court dates have been set in Keller’s federal case but his Fifth District Court has been set for review on Sept. 2.
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