Two men charged in the assault of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, must remain behind bars while they await trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan denied pretrial release for George Tanios and Julian Khater, calling them threats to the community. The judge said the assault with chemical spray on Sicknick and two other officers contributed to the mob's ability to breach police line that had been guarding the Capitol.
“These two gentlemen are law-abiding, respected individuals of their community and it makes it very difficult for the court to make this conclusion,” Hogan said. But the government's evidence and videos of the attack leaves “little doubt" about what transpired, Hogan said.
Tanios, of Morgantown, West Virginia, and Khater, of State College, Pennsylvania, haven’t been charged in Sicknick’s death.
The Washington medical examiner’s office last month found that Sicknick suffered a stroke and died from natural causes. The determination is likely to significantly inhibit the ability of federal prosecutors to bring homicide charges.
Lawyers for Tanios and Khater argued they don't deserve to be locked up while they fight the case, noting that some other similarly situated defendants have been released.
An attorney for Tanios — who operated a greasy spoon called Sandwich U in Morgantown, home of West Virginia University— said there was no advance planning and that her client had bought the chemical sprays only for self protection in the event of violence against Trump supporters.
"His only plans were to attend this rally," said Tanios' attorney, Beth Gross. "The intent wasn’t to go to a riot, the intent was to go to a rally to support their president."
Sicknick and other officers were standing guard behind metal bicycle racks as the mob descended on the Capitol.
“Give me that bear shit,” Khater said before he reached into Tanios’ backpack, according to court papers. Tanios told Khater “not yet” because it was “still early,” but Khater responded “they just f---ing sprayed me.” Khater was then seen holding a can of chemical spray, prosecutors say.
Khater walked through the crowd toward the bike rack barrier. Rioters began pulling on one of the racks, and Khater was seen with his arm in the air and the canister in his hand while standing just 5 to 8 feet from the officers, authorities said.
A prosecutor said during a recent hearing that it was likely Mace — not bear spray — that was sprayed at the officers.
Investigators initially believed Sicknick was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher, based on statements collected early in the investigation. And they later thought the 42-year-old Sicknick may have ingested a chemical substance that contributed to his death.