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Man charged in connection with Jan. 6 assault on Officer Sicknick takes plea deal

George Tanios pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts in connection with his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Using a public records database, law enforcement officers located a "George Pierre Tanios" and found this photograph of Tanios at his business in Morgantown, W.Va., according to a court document.United States District Court for the District of Columbia

WASHINGTON — A man who law enforcement authorities said was linked to an assault on a Capitol Police officer who died the day after the Jan. 6 attack pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts Wednesday as part of a plea deal with the federal government.

George Tanios, a former sandwich shop owner from West Virginia, had faced an indictment alleging that he conspired to assault the late U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, as well as two other officers. The indictment said that he carried a can of chemical spray in his backpack and that his co-defendant, Julian Khater, used chemical spray against the officers. Video of the assault was released in April 2021.

The duo were set to go to trial in October, and a motions hearing had been scheduled before U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan on Wednesday afternoon. Instead, Tanios pleaded guilty to a two-count superseding information that charged him with two misdemeanor counts: entering and remaining on restricted grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct on restricted grounds.

As part of his plea deal, Tanios admitted he purchased two canisters of bear spray and two canisters of pepper spray and that he gave one of the cans of pepper spray to Khater before he got to Washington. Tanios admitted that Khater got a can of bear spray out of his backpack while they were on restricted grounds.

"Yes, your honor," Tanios said when he was asked whether he agreed with the statement of offense in the case, which laid out the facts he acknowledged the government could prove.

The charges carry a maximum of one year in prison, but Tanios' guideline range is zero to six months in prison, meaning he might not do additional time, given the five months he has served already.

"The parties here worked diligently toward a fair and just resolution short of trial," said Elizabeth B. Gross, a federal public defender representing Tanios. "The proposed misdemeanor charges better reflect the limited actions of George Tanios on January 6, 2021, while outside the U.S. Capitol."

Khater, meanwhile, is weighing taking his own plea deal, but one that would carry much harsher consequences. A Justice Department attorney said that the offer would require Khater to plead guilty to two counts of assault on a federal officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon and that the sentencing guidelines range would be 78 to 97 months of incarceration. Khater's attorney told the court he needs more time to discuss the offer with his client.

Image: Capitol surveillance video purporting to show George Tanios in a sweatshirt that appears identical to the sweatshirt worn in a photo on his own social media post from the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Capitol surveillance video purporting to show George Tanios in a sweatshirt that appears identical to the sweatshirt worn in a photo on his social media post from the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.United States District Court for the District of Columbia

If he takes the deal, Khater would face the longest sentence imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant to date. Two other Jan. 6 defendants — Robert Scott Palmer and Mark Ponder — have been sentenced to 63 months, or more than five years, in federal prison.

Tanios, who was held in pretrial custody for five months, was released last August after an appeals court ruled his release would not present a danger to the public, citing the fact that he had “no past felony convictions, no ties to any extremist organizations, and no post-January 6 criminal behavior that would otherwise show him to pose a danger to the community.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment ahead of the plea hearing, and Tanios' attorney said she would have a comment after the hearing.

The Washington medical examiner ruled that Sicknick died of natural causes the day after the Jan. 6 riot after having suffered two strokes. He told The Washington Post that “all that transpired” on Jan. 6 “played a role” in Sicknick’s condition.

The FBI has arrested about 850 defendants in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and hundreds more cases are in the works.