A Jan. 6 rioter who pepper sprayed three police officers in the face — including Brian Sicknick, who died of multiple strokes the next day — was sentenced Friday to 80 months in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan found that Julian Khater made a calculated decision to work his way to the front of the mob and unleash a prolonged spray attack that injured at least three officers, including Sicknick.
“It’s inexcusable,” Hogan said, rejecting Khater’s claim that his “crippling anxiety” led him to act impulsively amid the chaos.
Dozens of members of the Capitol Police turned out to witness Khater’s sentencing and remained for the entire four-hour hearing. Among them: Caroline Edwards, who was sprayed by Khater moments after Sicknick. Edwards delivered a courtroom statement describing “survivor’s guilt” for being unable to assist Sicknick because she, too, was incapacitated. Members of Sicknick’s family, including his longtime partner Sandra Garza, delivered scathing victim impact statements directed at Khater.
A medical examiner found that Sicknick’s death was the result of natural causes — two strokes that occurred in the evening of Jan. 6 resulting in his death the next day. But Sicknick’s family made clear they viewed Khater as culpable for his death, combined with the stress of the riot.
The hearing also laid bare how a series of mace attacks on Capitol Police officers early in the riot that day helped lead to the collapse of the police line and the breach of the Capitol building.
Prosecutors played footage showing that Khater’s attack caused not only the three injured officers to flee the outnumbered police line but several others to help guide them to safety while they were blinded by the spray. Prosecutors showed video of Sicknick pacing alone on a Capitol terrace, struggling to regain his sight and his balance. While he paces, a slew of other officers, also maced by the mob, joined him on the terrace, also struggling to return to action.
Five minutes after Khater’s spray attack, prosecutors noted, the police line collapsed and rioters reached the foot of the Capitol.
Hogan’s sentence was one of the harshest handed down to Jan. 6 defendants — far more than the sentence of time served sought by Khater, who has already served 22 months in pretrial detention – but it fell short of the 90 months sought by the government. Hogan said that was partly to account for what he described as inhumane conditions of the Washington, D.C., jail, which Hogan called a “disgrace.” The jail has been plagued by allegations of substandard living conditions and a pattern of mistreatment by corrections officials that have, at times, drawn rebukes from federal judges.
Hogan faulted Khater for refusing to directly apologize to Edwards or for the injuries he caused to Sicknick and others that day. Khater responded that he hadn’t made a more direct apology following the advice of his lawyers, and because he had recently been served with a civil lawsuit related to his actions.
Khater’s codefendant, George Tanios, was sentenced Friday to five months time served for his actions. He purchased and carried the spray used by Khater but took no part in the assaults.