Two at Capitol Accused of Spraying Officer to Remain Jailed

The two men accused of attacking Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with a chemical spray at the Jan. 6 riot in Washington will remain behind bars after a federal judge denied their request for bail.

George Tanios and Julian Khater were arrested in March on charges of conspiring to attack Sicknick and two other Capitol Police officers during the siege. The authorities claim Khater took a chemical spray from Tanios’s backpack and used it to assault the officers, causing them to retreat from the police line and rush to wash out their eyes. Sicknick later collapsed at police headquarters and died at the hospital.

In Washington on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ordered Tanios and Khater to be held pending trial.

“Not only did they assault a police officer, they assisted in breaching a police officers’ line,” Hogan said at the hearing. “They assisted in the ultimate breach of the Capitol.”

Lawyers for Tanios and Khater had argued that the pair were acting in self-defense. Tanios purchased chemical spray ahead of the Jan. 6 protest “to protect himself from violent things that were happening at other Trump rallies,” his lawyer, Elizabeth Gross, said at the hearing. At a bail hearing in late April, Khater’s lawyer claimed his client was simply reacting to chemical sprays that police officers at the Capitol had deployed to stop the rioters.

Prosecutors haven’t charged Khater or Tanios with causing Sicknick’s death. Last month the chief medical examiner in Washington concluded that Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes, a finding that would make it difficult for the government to pursue homicide charges in the case.

On Tuesday, Gross tried to distance Tanios from Khater’s actions, arguing that he had no influence over his co-defendant.

“He cannot control him, he did not control him, and he had no ability to control him,” she said.

In his decision, Hogan disputed that characterization of the events.

“It seemed very clear that he allowed Mr. Khater to ... obtain the mace that he did use,” Hogan said. “It’s apparent to the court that Mr. Tanios did cooperate with him, and did assist him.”

More than 400 people have been arrested as part of the government’s sweeping investigation into the violence at the Capitol. Bail hearings in those cases have resulted in a range of outcomes, with some defendants jailed until trial while others have walked free. Although those decisions depend on the specific facts of each case, some defense lawyers have argued that the outcomes are arbitrary.

Hogan acknowledged that problem in his ruling.

“Not all has been consistent in the government’s position,” he said. “They’ve agreed to have some released who could be considered violent offenders.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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