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George Tanios sentenced to community service, no more jail time

A federal judge sentenced Morgantown resident George Tanios to the time he has already served in jail for his role in carrying the chemical irritant that was used to spray officers defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Tanios will serve no more time than the five months he already spent in jail from March 14, 2021, to Aug. 20, 2021.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan also ordered 100 hours of community service in West Virginia, along with payment of whatever money remains from a GoFundMe account that was earlier established for Tanios. The account, which indicates it has $50,000, includes a first-person statement saying Tanios was “wrongfully accused.”

“You shouldn’t be able to capitalize on the money you raised for the legal defense,” the judge told Tanios, who was represented by public defenders.

Tanios, 41, pleaded 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.

He did not speak on his own behalf during the Friday sentencing hearing in Washington, D.C., citing the peril of a separate multi-million dollar civil suit filed by the partner of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the attack.

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

Khater was also sentenced on Friday, but to a much longer term: 6 1/2 years.

In a sentencing report filed prior to the hearing, prosecutors asked only for the five months jail time already served by Tanios.

His attorneys, Richard Walker and Beth Gross, of the Federal Public Defender Office in West Virginia, also asked only for time served.

“The term of incarceration has been sufficient to deter Mr. Tanios and others who might consider engaging in similar misdemeanor offenses,” his lawyers wrote.

The lawyers wrote that Tanios regrets his actions.

“Mr. Tanios was present and he committed two crimes, but he did not have a major role,” his lawyers wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “For instance, he did not enter the U.S. Capitol building. He did not destroy property. He did not engage in violence. He did not assault law enforcement officers and he did not plan to do so.

“Still, Mr. Tanios fully recognizes the wrongfulness of his conduct and the magnitude of Jan. 6. He deeply regrets entering the Capitol grounds, trespassing, encouraging rioters and promoting the chaos by recording it with his iPhone.”

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.

On Jan. 5, the afternoon before the “Stop the Steal” rally, Tanios bought several canisters of bear spray and more standard pepper spray. The bear spray, despite initial reports, was never used. But the other chemical spray was, according to the federal prosecutors.

Tanios and Khater, a friend from New Jersey, traveled to Washington, D.C., together. Following the rally on the morning of Jan. 6, they joined a mass of protesters marching toward the Capitol.

Surveillance footage showed Khater reaching inside Tanios’s backpack and retrieving one of the cannisters of chemical spray.

At 2:20 p.m., Khater walked away from Tanios to get closer to the front line on the Lower West Terrace. 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 half a minute.

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