A Pennsylvania man who was sentenced in secret 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 unsealed this week.
The documents provide insight into the unusual secrecy in the case of Samuel Lazar, who had been released from federal custody in September after completing his sentence in his Capitol riot case. His case remained under seal even after his release, so there was no public record of a conviction or sentence.
The records unsealed 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 officers’ weapons as he yelled, “Let’s get their guns!” He pleaded guilty to assaulting officers using a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to 30 months in prison during a sealed hearing last March.
More than 1,200 people have been charged with Jan. 6-related crimes, and hundreds of them have pleaded guilty. But it is rare for records of a guilty plea and sentence to be sealed, even in cases involving a defendant’s cooperation. Court hearings and records are supposed to be open and available to the public unless there’s a compelling need for secrecy.