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Tanios pleads guilty, set to be sentenced today

Federal prosecutors are asking only for the five months of jail time already served by George Tanios, a Morgantown resident accused of transporting and handing off a canister of chemical irritant used to spray Capitol Police officers on Jan. 6, 2021.

Tanios, 41, is set to be sentenced at 1 p.m. today after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

The sentencing hearing will be in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan.

A filing by prosecutors indicated family members of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after the riot, will provide victim impact statements during the hearing. In a separate civil case, Sicknick’s partner Sandra Garza filed a multi-million-dollar federal lawsuit against Tanios, his alleged collaborator Julian Khater and former President Donald Trump.

Tanios is accused of transporting and then passing canisters of pepperspray to Khater, who aimed it at police officers, including Sicknick. A medical examiner concluded that Sicknick died of natural causes after suffering two strokes.

Tanios was jailed from March 14, 2021, to August 20, 2021, and then was released to home confinement. In addition to the time he has already served, prosecutors are asking for a 12-month term of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and $500 in restitution.

The mob storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 disrupted the constitutional duty of counting Electoral College votes and prompted the evacuations of representatives, senators and Vice President Mike Pence.

One woman was fatally shot while trying to climb into the chambers, three others died from “medical emergencies” and more than 100 police officers were injured.

“But for his actions alongside so many others, the riot likely would have failed,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

“Here, Tanios’s participation in a riot that succeeded in halting the Congressional certification combined with his lack of remorse, and the potential for future violence renders a Guidelines sentence both necessary and appropriate in this case.”

Prosecutors contend that Tanios’s role in the riot began the prior day, Jan. 5, when he went to ATR Performance in Morgantown. The sentencing memorandum states that he asked a store clerk if he could bring his firearm to Washington, D.C., and the employee said no.

Tanios then asked if he could bring a pepper ball gun, according to the memorandum, but the answer was still no because the weapon fires projectiles. The next question was whether he could bring mace.

So, Tanios purchased two, 7.9-ounce canisters of Frontiersman Bear Spray. Tanios also purchased two canisters of pepper spray.

The bear spray, despite initial reports, was never used. But the other chemical spray was, according to the federal prosecutors.

Tanios gave one of the canisters to Khater, and the two arrived later Jan. 5 in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they took a rideshare to the “Stop the Steal” rally.

As the rally concluded, Tanios and Khater joined a mass of protesters marching toward the Capitol. The government’s sentencing report indicates investigators found no evidence the two had previously planned to advance to the Capitol.

That afternoon at the Lower West Terrace, they could see chemical sprays being deployed by rioters against officers and officers using spray to try to control the mob. There were rioters throwing batteries, makeshift spears and other blunt objects. The crowd surged against makeshift barriers.

At 2:14 p.m., “Khater was incensed and ready to join the fray.”

Surveillance footage showed Khater reaching inside Tanios’s backpack and retrieving one of the cannisters of chemical spray. Open source video depicts Khater saying “Give me that bear s***” and reaching into the bag on Tanios’s back.

Tanios then pushed back, “Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet … it’s still early.”

Khater, by then holding a white can, responded that he had just been sprayed. At one point, according to prosecutors, Tanios appeared to lunge for the spray that Khater held.

At 2:20 p.m., Khater walked away from Tanios to get closer to the front line on the Lower West Terrace. He weaved his way through the crowd and positioned himself within a few feet of the bike rack barrier.

Soon, Khater held his right arm up high in the air and began spraying the smaller, hand-held cannister of pepper spray at officers. He sprayed for about 30 seconds.

“The result of Khater’s attack, in conjunction with attacks from hundreds of other rioters, was that the police line ultimately fell. Police officers retreated from the Lower West Terrace approximately five minutes after Khater’s spray assault on the police line,” according to the sentencing report.

That location became a flash point as rioters clashed against officers to forcibly enter the Capitol.

Tanios and Khater lingered on the Capitol grounds for a while and then left the area.