The day after the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office released a ruling finding Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes following the Jan. 6th siege, that officer’s accused assailants filed separate motions for pre-trial release. Neither of them mentioned the news of Sicknick’s autopsy report finding he died from two strokes, not homicide.
In fact, the two motions by attorneys for George Tanios and Julian Khater—running a combined 48 pages—do not mention Sicknick’s name at all.
“It is hard not to think of the events that unfolded on January 6th and not have a visceral reaction – particularly, as rioters entered the Capitol Building by breaking windows and ramming open doors,” Khater’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina acknowledged in a 28-page brief filed on Tuesday. “But Julian Khater was not one of them. He never entered the Capitol Building, never sought to threaten members of Congress, and never intended to forcibly interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. Instead, the act attributed to him was a limited and isolated one, that never transgressed the barrier that lay directly before him.”
That alleged act was spraying a canister of bear spray at Sicknick and two other officers. Prosecutors never alleged Sicknick’s assault caused his death.
Khater does not appear to deny the assault outright in his motion for bond, which does question whether the government has evidence connecting him to that crime.
“Specifically, as detailed in the criminal complaint, Mr. Khater is accused of ‘appearing’ to hold such a canister while spraying it in one continuous sweeping motion of his arm ‘from side to side’ and ‘in the direction’ of law enforcement officers, while standing as much as ‘eight feet away from [them]’ after ’emphatically’ yelling out, ‘They just [ ] sprayed me,'” the defense motion states.
Khater’s lawyers note that the reference to their client “appearing” to hold the canister is “less than definitive” and the “took aim at officers is, at best, equivocal.”
According to charging papers, Khater told Tanios, “Give me that bear shit,” an apparent reference to bear spray.
Going further than his accused co-conspirator in his defense, Tanios denies assaulting any officer with chemicals.
“Mr. Tanios denies conspiring to injure officers,” defense attorney Elizabeth Gross, from the Federal Public Defender’s office in West Virginia, wrote in a motion for bond. “Mr. Tanios denies aiding and abetting any other person in any crimes. Mr. Tanios denies assaulting any officer with a dangerous weapon. Mr. Tanios denies any physical violence on restricted grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon, and he denies causing bodily injury. Mr. Tanios asserts his innocence at this time and, given his non-violent and non-criminal history, he does not pose a danger to the community or any other person.”
Tanios’s lawyer claims that the government has slim evidence to the contrary.
“Other than Mr. Tanios being present, the video clips fail to show much at all in terms of the criminal acts allegedly committed by Mr. Tanios,” the brief continues. “The video clips fail to show any intent to harm officers, knowledge that officers would be injured, or any agreement by Mr. Tanios to do harm. The video clips fail to show Mr. Tanios use any weapon, chemical spray or inflammatory agent. Furthermore, the video clips fail to show that Mr. Tanios provided Mr. Khater with any item that could be used to injure officers at the Capitol. This is a far cry from strong evidence and it is the only evidence the Government relied upon.”
Though neither of the briefs mention Sicknick, both mention the D.C. Circuit ruling that has proved to be a boon for numerous Capitol riot suspects: the case of so-called “zip-tie guy” Eric Munchel, who was spotted traipsing around the Senate carrying tactical restraints.
In a ruling that ultimately led to the pre-trial release for Munchel and his mother, the D.C. Circuit raised the bar for the government to keep other members of the pro-Trump mob locked up until juries hear their cases. Khater noted that multiple members of the extremist Proud Boys group have benefited from that precedent, as have Hunter Ehmke, charged with breaking a window of the building, and Mark Leffingwell, who allegedly struck an officer as authorities tried to stop a group that had broken into the Capitol.
Read the legal briefs below:
(Screenshots from Justice Department documents)
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