A Pennsylvania man who was secretly convicted for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot cooperated with authorities investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and an unrelated case, according to court documents released this week.
The documents provide insight into the unusual secrecy in the case of Samuel Lazar, who was released from federal prison in September after serving time in his Capitol riot case. His record remained sealed even after his release, so there was no public record of a conviction or sentence.
Documents released this week show that Lazar, of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, admitted to spraying a chemical irritant at police officers who were trying to defend the Capitol and to using a bullhorn to encourage other rioters to take up arms police officers as he shouted, “Let’s go.” take their weapons! He pleaded guilty to assaulting police officers with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 30 months in prison at a closed hearing last March.
More than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 attacks, and hundreds of them have pleaded guilty. But it is rare for guilty plea and sentencing records to be sealed, even in cases involving a defendant’s cooperation. Court hearings and records are supposed to be open and accessible to the public, unless there is a compelling need for secrecy.
The documents show prosecutors asked the judge last year to sentence Lazar to prison time below federal guidelines, citing Lazar’s “full” cooperation with the government. That included providing “valuable information” to authorities investigating the Jan. 6 attack, prosecutors said in court documents.
An attorney for Lazar declined to comment Thursday. She told the judge that her client’s behavior on Jan. 6 “was completely out of character, as he is an extremely respectful and law-abiding citizen who has a deep respect and appreciation for law enforcement.” .
“He blindly followed President Trump’s cry to fight like hell to take the country back,” attorney Hope Lefeber wrote in a court filing.
The documents were released Wednesday after a coalition of media outlets, including the Associated Press, decided to make records in his case public. The documents were, however, removed from the court docket after lawyers said they were opposed to the release of all documents and wanted the court to release only blacked-out versions.
Richer reported from Boston.
Gn En usa