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Two of Officer Brian Sicknick’s Accused Assailants Must Stay in Jail Pending Trial in Spray Case

George Tanios and Julian Elie Khater

Capitol rioters George Tanios and Julian Khater have been charged with assaulting Officer Brian Sicknick.

George Tanios and Julian Khater, the two men charged with assaulting the late U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and other authorities with chemical spray, must remain in jail pending trial, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

“I have released most individuals, even one who was in the Capitol,” U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan remarked, adding that the case involved a weapon that was not used.

This case involved an alleged spray attack captured on video tape.

Judge Hogan reviewed that footage in between two detention hearings: one scheduled a week ago and reconvened on Tuesday. That inspection set the stage for his ruling.

“I always start with the premises that bond should be allowed in most cases,” Judge Hogan noted. “I am going to deny the requests in both cases for bond.”

Both Tanios, 39, and Khater, 32, were previously denied pretrial release while awaiting trial in connection with the Jan. 6th riot.

One jurist, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi, said during Tanios’s hearing of the siege at the Capitol: “It is hard for me to look at this as anything other than an assault on this nation’s heart.”

Tanios and Khater both renewed those motions last month, the day after the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office ruled that Sicknick died of natural causes following the Jan. 6th siege. Neither of them mentioned the news of Sicknick’s autopsy report finding he died from two strokes, not homicide, and prosecutors have not accused either of any role in the officer’s death.

Last week, their defense attorneys asked Judge Hogan to reconsider their continuing detention. The lawyers attempted to recast the prosecution’s allegations during oral arguments that spanned roughly two hours.

In video footage from the Capitol riots, Khater could be heard telling Tanios: “Give me some of that bear shit.”

Prosecutors also quote Tanios responding “It’s early” and “Not yet,” prompting an objection by his defense counsel Elizabeth Gross. She claimed that Tanios also said “Don’t do it, don’t do it,” a line that the prosecution countered is not inconsistent with planning for a future spray attack.

Judge Hogan reviewed the footage over the ensuing week after Gross made that statement, but he said he could not hear her client allegedly making that remark. He added that the comment “not yet” showed that the men “obviously” intended to use that product.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gideon Light told the judge that the line “Not yet” undercuts any claim that there was a lack of advanced planning.

“The idea that he’s trying to halt the violence… is sort of a fantasy,” Light said.

Gross denied that her client had any plan for violence: “The only plan was to go.”

“The plan was not to go to a riot,” she added. “The plan was go to a rally to support their president.”

She claimed he did not plan to use the bear spray: “not against police and not against bears.”

The lawyer also claimed that her client was reasonable to believe he needed the spray for self-defense.

“If the court were just to Google, ‘Trump rally turns violent,'” Gross claimed he would find examples of Trump supporters being assaulted.

Khater’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina said that his client used a different form of “mace” or “pepper spray.”

Tacopina also offered an enormous bond package to secure his client will not flee. Khater offered a $15 million bond guaranteed by more than a dozen family members, home detention with electronic monitoring and surrendering of “any and all passports” that he has.

Judge Hogan was not impressed with that offer, adding that cash bonds should be discouraged because they serve as a barrier to poor people and minorities.

It is undisputed that Khater was accurately quoted asking for “that bear shit,” that Tanios bought Frontiersman brand bear spray before the event, and that the men had the canister of it that day.

Gross claimed that the evidence shows that the bear spray was never used. Prosecutors claim, however, that the men assaulted officers with chemical spray.

The men are also accused of assaulting officers C. Edwards and D. Chapman, the former with the Capitol Police and the latter with the Metropolitan Police Department.

(Screenshots from Justice Department documents)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."