Hate Crime Case: Utah Neighbor Arrested For Threatening Interracial Family

A hate crime case in Utah has resulted in an arrest and maximum sentence. Robert Keller, 71, had threatened to kill members of an interracial family if they didn’t kick their teenage black relative out.

A federal judge has ruled that Keller will serve a year in prison for writing the letter to his neighbors last December. This will be followed by a year of supervised release, a $1,000 fine, and 260 hours of community service. The federal justice system has no parole.

The teenage boy’s family has opted to have their names withheld, and his sister now worries about her children after having read the letter.

Tensions surrounding racism have rarely been higher than they are now, with riots spreading from Ferguson all the way across the U.S., mirroring the Rodney King protests in the 90s. Even the internet is ablaze with accusations, with celebrity comedian Chris Rock having stoked the fire with his recent statement about “white people.”

Though this hate crime happened nearly a year ago, the ruling comes at the peak of recent tensions.

Prosecutor Carlos Esqueda said that Keller had been upset after seeing the family’s black teenage boy walking through Hurricane, Utah, with a white teenage girl. Esqueda added that the man’s age is no excuse for his behavior.

Robert Keller defended his actions, briefly explaining his reasons.

“I’ll admit I lost my temper. It wasn’t really meant to be a threat; it was more or less to wake them up to what was going to happen down the road.”

Keller did not go into detail explaining exactly what would “happen down the road,” and allegedly acted on speculation and racial assumptions. His attorney Kent Hart claims he has been a helpful member of the community, often helping his neighbors, and simply has an old-fashion set of beliefs.

Hart doesn’t excuse the threats made by Keller, but he believes the year prison sentence for his hate crime is excessive and disappointing.

What do you think should be done with Robert Keller?

[Image via Southern Poverty Law Center, Survive the Nights]