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01/15/2014

Western Colorado man sentenced to more than 3 years in federal prison for sending interstate threatening communications

Defendant threatened to kill children, police officers and their families

DENVER — A man from western Colorado was sentenced Wednesday to serve three years and four months in federal prison for sending interstate threatening communications.

This sentenced was announced by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado, and Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Denver.

U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez also ordered Kenneth Royal Wheeler, of Grand Junction, Colo., to serve three years on supervised release. Wheeler appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody. He was remanded at the sentencing hearing's conclusion.

Following a four-day jury trial before Judge Martinez, Wheeler was found guilty of two counts of sending interstate threatening communications. The jury deliberated for 75 minutes before reaching a verdict.

Wheeler was first charged by Criminal Complaint March 20, 2012; he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver March 22. A superseding indictment was obtained May 21, 2013. The jury trial began Sept. 23, 2013; the verdict was handed down Sept. 26.

According to court documents, as well as facts presented to the jury during trial, a person called the Grand Junction Police Department (GJPD) to report threatening Facebook posts. GJPD, working with HSI, conducted an investigation and determined that Wheeler made the threatening posts while he was in Rome, Italy. In fact, one of the posts stated that Wheeler believed he could post anything he wanted and not be prosecuted because he was not physically in the United States.

Among Wheeler's posts were instructions for people to kill children at a local daycare. He also told his "followers" to kill specific police officers, as well as their families and children. In one post Wheeler said: "the americans cant punish me for what i say here in rome italy on facebook. so. kill cops. drown them in the blood of their children, hunt them down and kill their entire blood lines."

Wheeler was arrested at the Grand Junction Airport, once he returned to the United States from Rome.

"Regardless of where you are in the world, if you send a threatening communication and it crosses state lines or international boundaries, you can and will be held accountable," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "The defendant thought that he could threaten people from afar, and return without consequences. He clearly learned that is not the case."

"Individuals who make threats of violence overseas are not immune from prosecution in the United States," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "Anyone who threatens law enforcement officers or their families is a serious threat to everyone."

This case was investigated by HSI and GJPD.

The jury trial was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colleen Covell and David Tonini, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer.