Man accused in assault of U.S. Capitol officer Sicknick pleads guilty to lesser charges

FILE PHOTO: Hearing for U.S. Capitol riot suspect in Clarksburg, West Virginia

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - George Tanios, one of two men who had been accused of assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol including now-deceased Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lesser misdemeanor charges.

Tanios, 40, appeared for a virtual hearing in U.S. District Court along with co-defendant Julian Khater. Tanios pleaded guilty to entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and to disorderly and disruptive conduct on restricted grounds.

He is due to be sentenced on Dec. 6. U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan said that Tanios could face up to a year in prison on each count but that under U.S. sentencing guidelines, he faces a term of between zero and six months in prison.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday they also offered a deal to Khater in which he would have to agree to plead guilty to two felony counts of assaulting federal law enforcement. The plea offer expires on Aug. 17. Khater's attorney said they need more time to review it before making a decision.

If Khater takes the plea deal, he could face up to 6-1/2 to 8 years in prison under U.S. sentencing guidelines.

Tanios and Khater were each originally charged with multiple criminal counts including felony assault for attacking at least three U.S. Capitol and Washington police officers with a chemical agent that day.

Sicknick died of natural causes following multiple strokes the day after then-President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed bid to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

Tanios and Khater were not charged in connection with Sicknick's death.

Khater, of State College, Pennsylvania, was arrested as he disembarked from an airplane at Newark Airport in New Jersey in March 2021.

At the time of his arrest, Tanios was the operator of Sandwich U - a shop in Morgantown, West Virginia that makes "fat" sandwiches, a type of sandwich containing greasy foods such as fries or mozzarella sticks that first rose to popularity among Rutgers University students in his hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

The FBI previously said it identified Tanios through witnesses who recognized his photo, including a former business partner who also said Tanios was embroiled in a legal dispute amid allegations he had embezzled $435,000 in a prior business venture.

Tanios and Khater were also seen on video footage outside the Capitol.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham, John Stonestreet and Howard Goller)