Julian Khater, a participant in last year’s Capitol riot who assaulted Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who later died, pleaded guilty this week to two felony criminal charges of assaulting law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon.
Khater, who has remained in custody for 17 months, is scheduled to face sentencing on December 13. Under federal law, each charge to which he pleaded guilty carries up to 20 years in prison, but he “faces a likely sentence of 78 to 97 months under federal guidelines negotiated with prosecutors,” per The Washington Post. That range would put Khater’s sentence at somewhere from six and a half to a little over eight years. During the riot, Khater sprayed Sicknick with a chemical irritant identified by the Justice Department as pepper spray. He also targeted other officers, including Caroline Edwards, who eventually publicly testified to the House committee investigating the riot. Khater’s co-defendant, George Tanios, was originally also charged with assaulting police, but Tanios evidently didn’t personally spray the irritant at Sicknick, Edwards, or a third officer who Khater also hit, and he evidently wasn’t right with Khater when the latter did so.
Before the riot, Tanios obtained chemical spray, including bear and pepper spray, and he provided Khater with some. Minutes before Khater used some of the spray against officers, available video shows him telling Tanios, “Give me that bear shit.” To those comments, Tanios replied, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early.” An FBI agent said available information showed a conspiracy to attack officers, adding that Khater seemingly used the spray in purposeful tandem with nearby rioters trying to get around metal bike racks in use as barricades. In general, arriving at the Capitol with chemical irritants certainly rather brazenly suggests a level of premeditation for the violent acts Khater committed that day. Tanios pleaded guilty to a pair of misdemeanor charges that, no matter their status, also come with potential jail-time. The charges collectively carry up to two years in prison, and Tanios will also face sentencing in early December.
Sicknick’s death was put under investigation by the D.C. medical examiner, who credited the officer’s loss of life to natural causes. Francisco Diaz, the medical examiner, identified that Sicknick sustained two strokes prior to his death, although the health official added that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.” With all three individual officers Khater hit with chemical irritants, the Justice Department specifies he sprayed them directly in the face. With Edwards, the department further specifies Khater sprayed her eyes, leaving her needing assistance. Khater and Tanios were originally arrested in March of last year. In the course of his plea deal, Tanios admitted he possessed no information to undercut the charges Khater faced.
After initially spraying Sicknick and the others, Khater tried to continue using chemical spray against officers, but an officer used a chemical irritant that evidently drove him back and upended his efforts. Khater never went inside the Capitol during the violence, but besides those who did so, prosecutors have also focused on mob participants who assaulted police anywhere that day. All that took place around the Capitol clearly establishes the level of threat from “MAGA Republicans” that Biden discussed in a primetime speech on Thursday.