grand junction man found guilty of sending interstate threatening communications
Defendant threatened to kill children, police officers and their families
DENVER – Kenneth Royal Wheeler, age 32, of Grand Junction, Colorado, was found guilty yesterday following a four-day jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez of two counts of sending interstate threatening communications, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble announced. The jury deliberated for 75 minutes before reaching a verdict. Wheeler is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Martinez on January 15, 2014.
Wheeler was first charged by Criminal Complaint on March 20, 2012. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on March 22, 2012. A superseding indictment was obtained on May 21, 2013. The jury trial began on September 23, 2013. The verdict was handed down on September 26, 2013.
According to court documents, as well as facts presented to the jury during trial, a person called the Grand Junction Police Department to report threatening Facebook posts. The Grand Junction Police Department, working with Homeland Security Investigations, conducted an investigation and determined that the threatening posts were made by Wheeler. It was also determined the Wheeler was in Rome, Italy when he made the posts. 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.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Covell said during her closing arguments to the jury: “Ladies and gentlemen, the First Amendment allows you to burn a flag in protest of the government, but it doesn’t allow you to threaten to burn the faces of the children of the Grand Junction Police Department.”
Wheeler was arrested at the Grand Junction Airport once he returned to the United States from Rome.
The defendant faces not more than 5 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine, per count, for each of the two counts of sending interstate threatening communications.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Grand Junction Police Department.
The jury trial was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colleen Covell and David Tonini. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer in the U.S. Attorney’s Grand Junction branch office provided substantial assistance during the investigation and pendency of the case.