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Man accused of bear-spraying Officer Sicknick pleads not guilty, in talks with DOJ on bail

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A Pennsylvania man accused of bear-spraying US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the January 6 riot, is in talks with the Justice Department for a possible deal to be released from jail as he awaits trial, according to a court hearing on Friday.

Julian Khater pleaded not guilty, and his attorney and prosecutors acknowledged they’re in talks for a so-called “bail package” during a short hearing on Friday. It was his first appearance before a judge in Washington, DC, on charges of assaulting police in the January 6 insurrection.

During the hearing, it wasn’t clear the bail terms prosecutors would push for, or if there would be a hearing later where they would argue to keep him detained.

The brief discussion highlights how differently so many of the Capitol riot cases have played out in their earliest stage, where prosecutors choose to push for some defendants to remain in jail, agree to let others await trial at home, and judges often ultimately decide.

There’s a stringent legal test for keeping defendants in jail before trial, though several following the Capitol riot have stayed locked up, especially if judges have deemed them to be dangerous, still potentially violent or likely to flee or obstruct justice.

But the decisions haven’t been uniform across the more than 350 Capitol riot federal cases. Some defendants whom the Justice Department has attempted to paint as among the most violent or threatening have been released by judges who set strict conditions, such as home incarceration and GPS monitoring by court personnel. Keeping defendants in jail before trial is not meant to be punishment, like a sentence would be.

Khater has been in jail since his arrest on March 14. He will be back in court in Washington next week.

Prosecutors already have said in court he’s been helpful to them since his arrest. At a hearing where his co-defendant George Tanios was ordered to stay in jail pending trial, a Justice Department prosecutor described how Khater spoke to law enforcement. He described how the duo purchased bear spray and pepper spray in advance of January 6, then drove to Washington for the Trump rally, according to the Justice Department at a prior hearing.

Khater told investigators that Tanios carried a backpack for them both — which, according to his charges, Khater pulled the bear spray from, then used it against three officers including Sicknick during the siege.

“Mr. Khater acknowledged that he knew that the bear spray was not intended for use on humans,” the prosecutor said at the Tanios court hearing last month. “Mr. Khater acknowledged that after the spraying he and Mr. Tanios stayed and that Mr. Khater climbed the scaffolding to take pictures.”

Investigators have not released Sicknick’s cause of death. Nor have they tied the alleged bear-spray assault to his death the day after the riot.

In videos shown in court previously, the Capitol Police officers can be seen lurching away from the spray as they are hit in the face. Sicknick can be seen walking by himself, stopping to put his hands on his knees on the steps of the Capitol. The clip has not been released publicly aside from being played in court once in March.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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