Washington – New Jersey man who admitted to spraying US Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick with Pepper spray during January 6, 2021, Capitol attack was sentenced Friday to 80 months in prison in a Washington, DC, courtroom packed with Sicknick’s colleagues and other officers.
“I don’t know what got into you,” said federal judge Thomas Hogan, as he sentenced Julian Khater to the year-long prison term, “somehow you became determined to push your way through the crowd.”
Hogan fined Khater $10,000.
Sicknick died of natural causes a day after defending the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, the DC medical examiner’s office announced last year. He suffered a stroke, with a summary of a physician’s report citing “acute brainstem and cerebellar infarctions due to acute basilar artery thrombosis.”
Friday’s sentencing hearing drew busloads of other U.S. Capitol police officers who wanted to honor their fallen colleague.
According to court documents and Julian Khater’s plea agreement, he and co-defendant George Tanios – who pleaded guilty to lesser charges – traveled to Washington, DC from West Virginia to attend earlier President Donald Trump’s meeting at the White House Ellipse.
The pair moved from the rally area toward the Capitol, though investigators say they found no evidence the men planned to riot that day.
“Surveillance video shows Khater reaching into Tanios’ backpack and retrieving one of the canisters of chemical spray they had brought to Washington,” the government argued before sentencing, describing Khater as angry, emotional and out of control.
After getting to the front of the mob on the Capitol’s lower west side, prosecutors say Khater aimed the pepper spray at a number of officers.
“Khater’s attack, in conjunction with attacks by hundreds of other insurgents, resulted in the collapse of the police line,” the government wrote, “Khater’s first victim was United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.”
Bodycam and surveillance video reviewed by CBS News and photos included in court documents show Sicknick reacting to irritation, pulling back and clearing the area to dry his eyes and clean his face. Other officers were also hit with Khater’s pepper spray and tried to shield themselves from the effects, the videos show.
Neither Khater nor Tanios have been charged in Sicknick’s death.
Prosecutors urged the judge to sentence Khater to 90 months in prison, writing, “While Julian Khater’s spray attack on Officer Sicknick was ultimately not determined to be the direct cause of his death, Office Sicknick’s tragic passing, so close in time to the the traumatic events. that day, underlines the seriousness of the offense committed by Khater and his fellow rebels.”
He “committed a cowardly and premeditated assault on at least three uniformed police officers,” the government said during Friday’s proceedings, showing court video of Khater’s various actions during the attack.
And although Khater did not himself enter the Capitol that day, the government told Hogan that he was an important part of the mob that broke down the barriers and “allowed” the breach of the Capitol.
Khater – who has been jailed since his arrest in March 2021 – pleaded for leniency, and his lawyers wrote before sentencing that he “feels genuine remorse for his behaviour”.
Khater’s defense team described their client as a gentle and kind person who got swept up in today’s mob mentality, and argued that he and Tanios traveled to the nation’s capital for the purpose of attending the Trump rally. Tanios, they said, only carried the pepper spray used in the attack to defend them against potential violence that day, not attack.
Khater’s deplorable actions, they wrote, “were actually isolated and not part of any coordinated effort.”
His defense team asked Hogan for a suspended sentence, citing in legal briefs what they described as suboptimal and dehumanizing conditions in custody that include poor food and sleep deprivation.
In court Friday, Khater’s defense attorney said, “the behavior in this case does not define him,” citing his client’s history of crippling anxiety and depression.
“Despite some of the hyperbole and rhetoric,” the defense argued Friday, “Mr. Khater did not directly or indirectly cause Sicknick’s death.
Khater himself also spoke briefly on Friday, describing the past two years as humbling but still “painful”.
“I can assure you,” he told the judge, “what happened that day was not in my nature … will never happen again.”
Hogan noted that he heard no sorrow or remorse from Khater about what he did to the officers that day. Khater replied that he avoided doing so because of an ongoing civil case on the matter.
Ahead of the sentencing, Sicknick’s mother and siblings submitted letters to the court describing their feelings of anger toward Khater. They also spoke emotionally in court Friday about the loss.
“You attacked my son like he was an animal; you are the animal, Mr. Khater,” wrote Sicknick’s mother, Gladys, “You should have known better … in this great country we go to the ballot box to make a difference. We are not starting an armed rebellion, regardless of the president urging you to ‘fight like hell’.”
Dressed in her late son’s shirt, Gladys Sicknick addressed Khater during Friday’s proceedings. “You attacked my son like he was an animal. You are the animal, Mr. Khater,” she said emotionally. “How does it feel to be headed to jail because of a bald-faced lie?”
Sicknick’s longtime partner, Santa Garza, said Khater and Tanios were “brainwashed” by Trump.
Judge Hogan was careful to point out that he was not convicting Khater of Sicknick’s death, stressing that no such charge was before him Friday. Still, the judge said he found no excuse for the actions that day.