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Plea talks continue in Jan. 6 case for Tanios

Morgantown resident George Tanios is still scheduled for an October trial for his role at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but defense attorneys acknowledged they’ve continued talks with federal prosecutors about a possible plea agreement.

In a status hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan of the District of Columbia alluded to incentives for defendants to consider plea deals.

The judge said he is “pleased to hear that there’s been some serious discussion, an attempt to resolve it. Cases so far that have gone to a jury have resulted in a guilty verdict within an hour or so. So I think that the exposure is there, and it all depends on how you work on a resolution.”

Tanios, who is a Morgantown resident, and his longtime friend Julian Khater, are accused of collaborating to use pepperspray against U.S. Capitol police.

They originally had a trial date for this month, but the judge had already delayed trial until Oct. 5 as plea talks continued.

Lawyers on all sides confirmed that plea talks have been continuing.

Federal prosecutor Anthony Scarpelli told the judge “the government has made tentative plea offers to the defendants and we have a series of discussions and we’re in a posture now, I believe, where the defense attorneys have made counter offers.

“I have sent it up our hierarchy of the office, and as the court probably knows it’s not a smooth process getting it up there. So, it’s sort of with upper management at the moment. I think we’ve made some progress.”

Chad Seigel, a defense attorney for Khater, agreed about those talks.

“We concur with what the government said. We’ve actually had very significant and meaningful discussions. We think we’re on track toward a resolution.”

Tanios’s defense attorney Elizabeth Gross, also acknowledged the plea discussions.

“We did counter-offer the government, and I’m waiting for Mr. Scarpelli to let me know how that goes,” Gross told the judge.

Judge Hogan set another hearing for 10 a.m. Aug. 10.

Tanios pleaded not guilty and is at home in Morgantown. He is accused of passing the pepperspray to Khater, who aimed it at police officers, including Brian Sicknick, who later died. A medical examiner concluded that Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes.

Tanios and Khater are charged with nine counts, including assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The mob storming the U.S. Capitol disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence.

Of the thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C., that day, about 800 went into the Capitol, police have said.

West Virginians facing federal charges from that day include:

  • Jeffery Finley, a Martinsburg resident said to lead West Virginia’s group of right wing Proud Boys. Finley has pleaded guilty to entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 19.
  • Former state Delegate Derrick Evans of Wayne County, who resigned after being charged. Evans pleaded guilty to a civil disorder felony and was sentenced Wednesday to three months incarceration.
  • Former Parkersburg Councilman Eric Barber, who was sentenced to 45 days incarceration after pleading guilty to charges of demonstrating in a Capitol building and theft.
  • College student Gracyn Courtright of Hurricane, who was sentenced to one month in jail after pleading guilty to unlawfully and knowingly entering and remaining in a restricted building and grounds.
  • Jamie Lynn Ferguson, a Virginia resident who works for the West Virginia National Guard, also faces four federal charges. She has a plea agreement hearing set for 10:30 a.m. July 6.

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