A man from New Jersey who joined a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to more than six years in prison on Friday for attacking police officers with pepper spray. One of those officers died a day after the attack.
Julian Khater didn’t talk about the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick or say anything to the officer’s family in the written statement he read out loud before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan sentenced him to six years and eight months in prison.
Khater was not charged with killing the officer. A medical examiner decided that Sicknick, who was 42, had two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he and other officers tried to stop the crowd that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Hogan said that Sicknick’s death was the “elephant in the room,” but he stressed that the coroner’s report didn’t give him any reason to use it as a sentencing factor. But the judge pointed out that Khater didn’t apologise to the officers he hurt or say anything about how sorry he was.
Hogan said, “Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the sense of taking responsibility.”
Khater said that he changed his prepared statement to the court because his lawyer told him to do so after he was named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit over his actions on January 6.
He said, “I wanted to apologise to everyone.”
Khater had been in jail for almost two years before his trial. The judge gave him credit for that. Hogan also told him to pay a fine of $10,000.
George Tanios, a friend of Khater’s and a co-defendant, pleaded guilty to misdemeanour charges of disorderly and disruptive behaviour and spent almost six months in jail before an appeals court released him. Hogan gave Tanios, who is 41 and from Morgantown, West Virginia, the jail time he had already served on Friday.
Dozens of police officers were in the courtroom gallery, and many more were in an overflow courtroom watching the proceedings on a TV.
Even though Tanios and Khater were not charged in Sicknick’s death, the officer’s family thinks they should be. Before he gave the sentences, Sicknick’s mother, two brothers, a sister-in-law, and longtime girlfriend all spoke to the judge in court.
An older brother named Craig Sicknick said, “Your selfish actions have caused more pain than you could ever imagine.” “My family is a mess, and none of us are even a little bit unharmed because of what you did that day.”
The officer’s mother, Gladys Sicknick, told Khater that her son is “centre stage in our recurring nightmare.”
“You hurt my son like he was a wild animal.” She told Mr. Khater, “You are the animal.”
Federal prosecutors had asked that Khater, who is 34 and from Somerset, New Jersey, go to prison for seven years and six months.
In April 2021, the Washington Medical Examiner’s Office decided that Sicknick died of natural causes after having two strokes near the base of his brain stem. The medical examiner also said that Sicknick had fought with rioters on January 6, and prosecutors say that “everything that happened played a role in his condition.”
Chad Seigel, a lawyer for Khater, said that the medical examiner’s autopsy proved that Khater had nothing to do with the officer’s death, either directly or indirectly.
“They would have charged him if there was any proof to the contrary,” Seigel said.
Prosecutors said that Sicknick’s “tragic death, so close in time to that day’s traumatic events, shows how serious Khater and his fellow rioters’ crime was.”
“Officer Sicknick’s death should serve as a solemn reminder to Khater and all the other rioters who hurt police officers that day that their actions caused a lot of trauma, stress, and pain for all the police officers who were attacked physically at the Capitol,” they wrote in a court filing.
Khater drove from New Jersey to West Virginia to pick up Tanios. Then, on January 5, he drove to the Washington area. The next day, they took a rideshare to Washington, D.C., to go to the “Stop the Steal” rally and hear then-president Donald Trump speak to his supporters.
Khater and Tanios got close to the Lower West Terrace as they marched with the crowd from the rally to the Capitol. Khater got angry when police used chemical spray on him, “as if he were some innocent victim,” a prosecutor named Gilead Light told the judge.
Surveillance video shows Khater reaching into Tanios’s backpack and taking out a can of pepper spray that Tanios had bought the day before. Tanios was caught on video saying, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… Khater reached for his backpack and said, “It’s still early.”
A few minutes later, Khater went up to the officers guarding a barricade and sprayed at least three of them, including Sicknick.
Light said, “He jumped into action right when the officers were the most helpless.”
Light said that the attack was planned, but Khater’s lawyers said that he hadn’t. Khater told the FBI that he and Tanios had brought pepper spray and bear spray to the rally to protect themselves.
After an officer sprayed Khater, he stopped spraying police. After Khater attacked, the police moved away from the Lower West Terrace.
More than three hours after police cleared the Capitol of protesters, Sicknick started stuttering while talking to other officers and then fell down. He was in a hospital on life support for almost 24 hours before he died.
In September, Khater pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting or obstructing officers with a dangerous weapon. Tanios pleaded guilty to two minor crimes in July. They were not accused of going into the Capitol on January 6.
The prosecutors had suggested that Tanios get the same amount of time in jail that he has already served, which is five months and six days.
Tanios ran a sandwich shop near the campus of West Virginia University. It shut down while he was in jail.
Khater has been in jail since he was caught in Newark, New Jersey, in March 2021. He ran a health food restaurant that shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
On January 6, more than 100 police officers were hurt at the Capitol. More than 950 people have been charged with federal crimes because of the riot on January 6.
About 500 defendants in the Riots have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Over 380 people have been sentenced, and more than half of them got prison terms of between seven days and ten years.
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