grand junction man sentenced to prison for sending interstate threatening communications
DENVER -- Kenneth Royal Wheeler, of Grand Junction, Colorado, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez to serve 40 months in federal prison for sending interstate threatening communications, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Securities Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble announced. Following his prison sentence, Judge Martinez ordered Wheeler to serve 3 years on supervised release. Wheeler appeared at the sentencing hearing in custody. He was remanded at the sentencing hearing’s conclusion.
Wheeler was found guilty of two counts of sending interstate threatening communications following a four-day jury trial before Judge Martinez. The jury deliberated for 75 minutes before reaching a verdict.
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.”
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 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.