March 16 – Two men from the region have been arrested in association with the Capitol riots on January 6 and if convicted, they could be looking at a lot of time in a federal prison.
George Pierre Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, W.Va., and Julian Khater, 32, of State College, face a host of charges in relation to their participation in the riot.
They may also be facing charges in the death of U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, but that remains to be seen.
Khater and Tanios were each charged with three counts of assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon and one count each of conspiracy to injure an officer, civil disorder, obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, physical violence on restricted grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct.
The two allegedly used bear spray on police officers, including Sicknick during the attack.
The actual cause of death for Sicknick has yet to be determined. It’s possible he had a stroke later in the day and did not actually die during the riots.
If the prosecutors can tie Sicknick being hit with the bear spray to triggering a medical event hours later that caused him to die, this case could be a little different.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the issue today.
“If they (prosecutors) can make a nexus between those two things, these guys could be charged with a lesser degree of homicide,” Barkdoll said. “The case isn’t there yet. Even if that charge isn’t on the table, these guys are in a lot of trouble.” If convicted, both are looking at many years in a federal prison.
Could a defense be mounted that the country has normalized violence as a part of protests?
Jansen said, “People would see people regularly committing violence all around the country in the name of a protest earlier in the year and they’ve gotten to the point where they’re like ‘well I’m doing part of a protest, I’m just going to do the same thing.’ Everybody wants to use the excuse of the influence of Donald Trump’s speech or whatever. Could you see somebody mounting a defense saying when did protesting have to be polite and not violent?”
“I think it’s a defense that someone could try to raise,” Barkdoll said. “I doubt if it’s something that a judge or jury would entertain but you never know.”
Merrick Garland, Attorney General for the United States, gave some interesting thoughts during his confirmation hearings recently, saying he felt there was a difference between destroying a building when it’s vacant versus destroying a building when people are in it.
“I think you could imagine that kind of argument being made by a defense,” Barkdoll said. “That, look, these guys were doing things, even though we all agree it was wrong and illegal, but it was in line with what was happening around the country for six, nine months. Might that convince a judge not to say they’re not guilty, but might that be a factor that would go into sentencing? It’s an argument. I doubt if it succeeds, but I think it’s an argument.”