A Somerset County man pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of felony assault of a federal officer for spraying a chemical irritant at police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Julian Khater, 33, said very little in a plea agreement hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C. He answered the judge’s standard pre-plea questions with answers, like, “Yes your honor.”
Khater admitted to the spray assaults of U.S. Capitol Police officers Brian Sicknick and Caroline Edwards.
Sicknick, 42, and a South River native, died the day after the rioting of natural causes, caused by strokes. The 12-year officer was involved in physical fighting during the Capitol attacks and his death was classified as occurring in the line of duty.
Khater faces several years in federal prison when he’s sentenced, which is scheduled for December, about a week after that of his codefendant, George Tanios, another fellow New Jersey native. Tanios, 40, pleaded guilty in July to two misdemeanors.
The FBI has said Khater pulled the can of chemical irritant he used from a backpack Tanios was wearing. He was angry that officers had sprayed him during a standoff that day, it said.
The incident was caught on video.
“Give me that bear s—,” Khater says in the video, and appears to reach into Tanios’ backpack.
“Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early,” Tanios replies.
“They just f—— sprayed me,” Kahter says.
Khater has been in jail in the Washington, D.C. area since his arrest last year. Tanios was initially jailed, then released on bond. They’ve each been indicted on 10 crimes for their actions at the Capitol.
Edwards testified in June before the House committee investigating the riots and described the battle to hold the Capitol with words like, “carnage” and “chaos” and “war scene” and said she slipped in other people’s blood. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she said in multiple media reports.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer that I would find myself in the middle of a battle,” Edwards said. “I am not combat-trained. That day it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat.”
She also described seeing Sicknick, fighting next to her, as turning “ghostly pale” and then with his “head in his hands.” Before she could help him, she was sprayed in the eyes.
Sicknick, Khater and Tanios all grew up in the New Brunswick area, and left New Jersey as young men.
Tanios settled in the college town of Morgantown, West Virginia, where he runs a sandwich shop. Khater operated fruit bowl shops in college towns in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and returned to the Garden State in 2020.
Sicknick served in the New Jersey Air National Guard before joining the U.S. Capitol Police. He lived in a Virginia suburb with his girlfriend of 11 years, and never stopped rooting for the New Jersey Devils, his obituary said.
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Kevin Shea may be reached at email@example.com.
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