Morgantown Man Indicted In Assault Of Capitol Police Will Stay In Jail, Judge Rules
A federal judge ruled Monday that George Tanios, a Morgantown man indicted on charges of conspiracy to injure U.S. Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, will stay in jail pending a trial. One officer, Brian Sicknick, died the next day.
In his ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi said he could not ignore the broader context of the Capitol riots.
"It’s hard for me to look at this as anything other than an assault on our nation’s honor and everything that’s important to us as a people,” Aloi said.
Federal prosecutors showed surveillance videos and body camera footage where they say Tanios handed a chemical spray canister to Julian Khater of Pennsylvania who then used it on three U.S. Capitol Police.
The owner of ATR Performance in Morgantown told investigators that Tanios visited the store on Jan. 5 and asked if he could take a firearm or pepper ball gun into the District.
The owner told Tanios these weapons were outlawed and the man opted to purchase cans of bear spray and pepper spray. Prosecutors said according to the store owner and cell phone records, Tanios was on the phone with Khater when we entered the store.
Prosecutors said Khater told them in a statement after his arrest that he picked up Tanios in Morgantown and they traveled to Washington, D.C. together. According to Khater, the two men stayed at a hotel room and took a rideshare service to the Trump rally.
After Tanios’ arrest, investigators searched his home and found two unused canisters of Frontiersman Bear Spray and a small black canister of pepper spray on a keychain.
At Khatar’s home, prosecutors said investigators found a spent black canister that resembled the unused one found at Tanios’ home. Searches of the two men’s residences turned up various articles of clothing the two men were seen wearing in videos and photos from the Capitol Riots, according to prosecutors.
Tanios’ defense lawyers, public defenders Beth Gross and Richard Walker, presented a series of character witnesses Monday to advocate for his release until trial. Tanios’s fiance, mother, sister, and friends testified that he had three children, owned a business and home in Morgantown and was not violent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wagner dismissed this defense.
"We have no doubt that Mr. Tanios' family loves him very much, but we would just point out that these family and community ties were in place before he committed these crimes that he's accused of," Wagner said.
At one point, Tanois’ mother, Maguy, appeared during the hearing. Through tears, she recounted moving to the United States from war-torn Lebanon to build a business and raise a family in New Jersey.
“I raise my kids to work 12 hours a day,” she said. “I don’t raise bad kids.”
She passionately denied a tip cited by prosecutors from a confidential informant saying that a member of the family had plans to help her son escape the country.
“This is my country,” she said. “God bless the United States.”
Maguy said she speaks with her son often, but not about politics.
Tanios’ fiance also spoke in his defense, saying that he was a good father who worked long hours to provide for their three children.
Aloi, the judge, acknowledged Tanios’ community ties but sided with the government’s case. He questioned the defendant’s choice to participate in the Capitol riot and the large forces that compelled his actions.
"We’ve created this culture, radicalized by hate, and just refusal to accept the result of the democratic process,” he said.