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Second defendant charged in assault on Officer Sicknick to plead guilty

Prosecutors said the plea offer before Julian Khater included two felony counts of assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon.

WASHINGTON — A Pennsylvania man accused of conspiring to assault officers with pepper spray on Jan. 6 is now scheduled to enter a guilty plea Thursday that could result in years behind bars.

A notice was posted in D.C. District Court Wednesday that a status conference for 33-year-old Julian Khater set for Thursday at 12:20 p.m. had been converted to a plea agreement hearing.

Khater was indicted along with a co-defendant, George Tanios, of West Virginia, in March 2021 on 10 counts, including felony counts of conspiracy to impede or injure an officer, assaulting on police with a dangerous weapon and obstruction of an official proceeding. In charging documents, prosecutors said receipts showed Tanios purchased canisters of bear spray from a gun shop in West Virginia on Jan. 5, 2021.

A day later, prosecutors said, it was Khater who reached into Tanios’ backpack and pulled out a canister of chemical irritant – which they initially identified as bear spray before walking that claim back to pepper spray – and then allegedly assaulted three officers with it. One of the officers struck by the spray was U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who collapsed later in the day and died on Jan. 7. A medical examiner determined Sicknick died of natural causes, and neither Tanios nor Khater were ever charged in connection with his death.

At a bond hearing in April 2021, assistant U.S. attorney Anthony Scarpelli told U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan that the bear spray, even though it ultimately wasn’t used, showed the men were prepared for violence.

“Why are they buying bear spray to go to a city? There are no bears in downtown D.C.,” Scarpelli told Hogan.

“There is only one explanation why defendants are gearing up like this,” Scarpelli said. “They are lying in wait. They know an attack on the police line is going to happen. It's premediated violence, point blank, with a dangerous weapon on unprotected, distracted officers.”

Tanios pleaded guilty in July to one count each of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct, both misdemeanors. At that hearing, prosecutors said they had also extended a plea offer to Khater for two counts of assaulting a federal officer with a dangerous weapon. The recommended sentencing guideline, prosecutors said, would be 78-97 months in prison. That could put Khater’s potential sentence in the range of those received by Guy Reffitt and Thomas Robertson, who were both convicted at trial of multiple felony counts and each sentenced to 87 months in prison.

Khater was scheduled to appear virtually before Judge Hogan at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The court notice did not indicate to what charges Khater intended to enter a guilty plea.

We're tracking all of the arrests, charges and investigations into the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Sign up for our Capitol Breach Newsletter here so that you never miss an update.

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