A federal judge on Monday blasted the West Virginia man accused of attacking Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick with bear spray during the Jan. 6 siege, calling his actions “an assault on our nation.”
“I’m very aware that my rulings affect the person in front of me and everyone who loves them,” Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi said as he ordered George Tanios to be detained pending trial. “It is hard for me to look at this as anything other than an assault on this nation’s heart.”
“My obligation is to the safety of our community, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything play out in a way that was more dangerous to our community and I have no question that, in your own way, Mr. Tanios, you chose to be part of that,” the judge added.
The ruling came after over half a dozen witnesses called by Tanios’ defense team, including several of his former employees, friends, and family members, all insisted he is a non-violent person who loves his family and is kind to his workers.
“He is not a bad kid,” Tanios’ mother, Maguy, emotionally told the court during her 39-year-old son’s detention hearing, insisting she never spoke to her son about politics.
Prosecutors allege Tanios, along with 32-year-old Julian Elie Khater, was captured in videos discharging a canister of bear spray into the face of Sicknick and two other officers. Sicknick, 42, died a day later.
“Why would you not just turn the other way and go home? … The fact that all of them weren’t thinking about that is just frightening to me. And that was a choice. Choices all along the way,” Aloi said Monday. He added that the Jan. 6 riot was the result of a culture “radicalized by hate” and a refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election.
“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. I don’t know if that represents who you are Mr. Tanios. I don’t know that it represented a lot of people that day,” he added.
Khater and Tanios face several counts for allegedly attacking the officers, including assault and civil disorder charges. The violent attack also injured Capitol Police Officer C. Edwards and a D.C. cop, B. Chapman. While authorities have not officially stated Sicknick’s cause of death, or whether it’s been deemed a homicide, the criminal complaint against the pair shows the officer was clearly attacked by rioters during the insurrection.
“Give me that bear shit,” Khater allegedly said to Tanios in the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol on Jan. 6, before digging into Tanios’ backpack, according to court papers obtained by The Daily Beast. That entrance, prosecutors state, is where Sicknick and at least two other officers were standing guard behind metal bicycle racks.
“Hold on, hold on, not yet, not yet… it’s still early,” Tanios responded.
Prosecutors allege the pair intentionally timed their attack on the officers with the chemical irritant “to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers that were preventing the rioters from moving closer to the Capitol building.”
But Tanios’ family and friends on Monday insisted his actions on Jan. 6 are not the norm.
Sitting next to their mother during her testimony, his sister, Maria Boutros, insisted that her brother was never violent and that the family was brought up in the church. Describing Tanios as a “jokester who worked too many hours” running a bar and sandwich shop, Boutros said that her brother has never previously been in trouble with the law.
“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,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wagner rebutted Monday.
Prosecutors also alleged while arguing for his detention that Tanios may be a flight risk after an FBI tipster provided information that his mother planned to find a way to get her son to Lebanon, where they are originally from. When asked about the tip, Maguy Tanios burst into tears, stating, “Who tell you that? …This is my country. God bless the United States.… We are American.”
As previously reported by The Daily Beast, Tanios owns the eatery Sandwich University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The shop gained notoriety five years ago after using its social media to attack a former employee. Its GrubHub page shows it publicly insulting those who left negative reviews and its own staff.
The store’s Instagram offers insight into its misogynistic marketing taglines, and the now-suspended Twitter account included a number of pro-Trump and anti-mask tweets. Tanios also appears to have owned a nearby sports bar, and public records show a history of substantial state and federal tax problems.
According to the criminal complaint against Tanios, one tipster who spoke with federal authorities said he “bragged about going to the insurrection at the Capitol on Facebook” and that he owned the “Fat Sandwich” restaurant. Another tipster, identified as a former business partner, told authorities he was in a legal dispute with Tanios after the 39-year-old allegedly “embezzled $425,000 from their former business.”