The United States Capitol Police announced that Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away on January 7, 2021. Julian Khater plead guilty Thursday to assaulting Sicknick with pepper spray. Photo courtesy United States Capitol Police/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/ea33e108a61aa523be9acfb4f8cdd9b6/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The United States Capitol Police announced that Officer Brian D. Sicknick passed away on January 7, 2021. Julian Khater plead guilty Thursday to assaulting Sicknick with pepper spray. Photo courtesy United States Capitol Police/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 1 (UPI) — A Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Thursday to pepper-spraying three Capitol police officers, including Brian Sicknick, during the Jan 6. attack on the Capitol.

Julian Khater, who owns a smoothie-shop in State College, Pa., admitted to assaulting and injuring law enforcement officers. He faces a likely sentence of 78 to 97 months in prison.

Khater’s case had been one of the most high-profile among the Jan. 6 defendants because of the attack on Sicknick. Khater, 33, and his co-defendant George Tanios, 40, injured Sicknick and other officers at a thin point in the police line. Sicknick collapsed and died the next day.

The 42-year-old officer of over 12 years, died the day after the riot of natural causes rather than as a direct result of injuries and succumbed to fatal strokes caused by a clot in an artery that supplies blood to the brain, District of Columbia medical examiner Francisco Diaz said in his autopsy.

Tanios pleaded guilty in July to illegally entering the restricted area of the Capitol, as well as disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds. He also admitted to bringing bear repellent and pepper spray to the attack.

An FBI agent said in court documents that Khater and Tanios were “working in concert and had a plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement.” The agent also said that Khater appeared to time his deployment of chemical substances to coincide with other rioters’ efforts to forcibly remove the bike rack barriers.

However, Khater’s attorney Joseph Tacopin said that his client never planned to attack the police.

“It wasn’t a plan. It was a reaction” to being sprayed by police, Tacopina said. “He used a defensive spray.”

Khater has already spent 17 months in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13.

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