Federal Judge orders Morgantown man charged in Capitol riot to remain in jail

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 3:10 PM EDT
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - On Monday, during a hearing for the Morgantown man charged with assaulting federal officers with a dangerous weapon on January 6, a federal magistrate judge ordered 39-year-old George Pierre Tanios to remain in jail.

Tanios, who owns Sandwich University and has operated other businesses in the Morgantown area, is charged with 9 counts, including civil disorder, and assaulting three officers with a deadly weapon. The weapon used in the alleged assault was bear and pepper spray. According to the criminal complaint, one of the officers attacked with the chemical spray died the day after the January 6 riot, but the cause of death has not been released yet.

Tanios is facing up to 20 years in prison. A childhood friend of Tanios, Julian Elie Khater, who was with Tanios during the incident is also facing similar charges.

Prosecutor Sarah Wagner told the judge that Khater spoke with FBI special agent, Riley Palmertree, reveling that he and Tanios had traveled together to attend the rally and confirmed that Tanios did purchase the chemical sprays. The store owner also confirmed this information and stated that he did engaged in conversation with Tanios about what he could bring to D.C. for the event. The store owner also mentioned that Tanios asked if firearms or a pepper ball gun could be taken, and the store owner told him “no” according to Wagner.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi’s made the decision for Tanios’ detainment and made his conclusion based off of what he called the chaos and violent attack on the capital.

“This isn’t a weekend visit to see blossoms in D.C.,” Aloi said. He also stated that Tanios chose to be a part of the rally. “It shook me when I saw those things happening.”

Before the decision to have Tanios detained, the three and a half hour hearing included his attorneys, First Assistant Defender Richard Walker and Assistant Defender Beth Gross, who asked for his release. They stated to the court that he hasn’t had any previous criminal history, and called witnesses including his mother, Maggie Tanios, who was amongst the many emotional witnesses that spoke about who Tanios was.

“My son is not a bad kid,” She went on to say that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The defendants also said that the video and picture evidence is not enough to show his intentions while at the rally, stating that the evidence is considered “interpretations of what happened” and the “weight of evidence is limited.”

However, Aloi stated that this whole situation could have been avoided if Tanios instead chose to stay home with his fiancé and three children who are all under the age of four, or visit his mother in New Jersey, but because he chose to visit a gun store and travel to D.C., Aloi noted this is what lead to his decision.

Further information on the next steps for Tanios’ case has yet to be provided.

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