‘It was my opinion’: Utah man jailed for threatening to cut black teenager’s throat
A 70-year-old Utah man was arrested for failing to appear in court in connection with federal hate crimes for threatening a Black teenager living in his neighborhood, KUTV-TV reported on Thursday.
Retired postal worker Robert Keller was charged with two federal misdemeanor counts of criminal interference with a right to fair housing for using both threats and a racial slur against the teen in a letter to both the teenager’s family and their local homeowner’s association.
“[If] it were my daughter, I think I wrote I’d slice his throat,” Keller said in the letter, according to KUTV. “Basically if you don’t remove him I will take care of it for you.”
Keller admitted to KUTV that he wrote the letter in an effort to “open their eyes,” having become upset that the teenager was living with white relatives and socializing with other white residents.
“I said, ‘What is going to happen down the road, when the black kid starts chasing these girls?'” Keller was quoted as saying. “What I seen set me off, when he was walking down the street with a white gal.”
The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that Keller was originally charged with state misdemeanor harassment charges after the teenager’s family used surveillance camera footage to identify Keller in late 2013. The family then took the matter to Tri-State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which alerted federal authorities.
Keller’s attorney, Terry Hutchinson, told KUTV that his client was not aware that he was scheduled to be in court to face the additional federal charges, and that prosecutors want to “make this a publicity case.” Keller was arrested on Tuesday on a federal warrant after missing his second appearance, and faces up to one year in prison on each federal count.
“To me, it’s not a threat,” Keller said of his choice of language. “It’s my opinion. Of course, I wrote it down, which was a mistake.”
Watch KUTV’s report on Keller’s letter, as aired on Wednesday, below.