Following the attack on the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021, hundreds of rioters were charged, convicted and sentenced. Samuel Lazar was also in prison for his involvement in the storming of the parliament building. But in contrast to the other convicts, the authorities are keeping his case a big secret, as the Associated Press (AP) news agency reports.

Lazar was arrested in July 2021, according to the AP, on allegations that he came to the Capitol in riot gear and protective goggles and used a chemical spray against officers who were desperately trying to repel the mob. A federal court in Washington later sentenced him to 30 months in prison, according to the Bureau of Prisons. This week, he was released from the custody of law enforcement after serving a sentence for assaulting or resisting a federal officer.

“But there is no public record of a conviction or sentence in Lazar’s court file,” the news outlet writes. Questions about the 37-year-old Pennsylvania man’s case have been circulating for months, but details have not been released. The Justice Department would not say why the case remained sealed and Lazar’s lawyers did not respond to multiple requests. In May, Judge Amy Berman Jackson also rejected a request from several media outlets, including the AP, to release any sealed files after a prosecutor and a defense attorney argued against it.

The case raises concerns about transparency in the extensive investigation into the events of January 6, the news agency reports. Court hearings and recordings – including sentencing hearings and a possible confession agreement – ​​must be open to the public and the press in the United States unless there is a compelling reason for secrecy. Although secret hearings are not unusual, the files are often released before the verdict is announced.

George Washington University criminal justice professor Randall Eliason, who served as a federal prosecutor for 12 years, told the Associated Press that he could not recall a case during his tenure at the Justice Department in which a hearing and verdict were kept under wraps. It is possible that in the Lazar case, “there are either security concerns regarding him personally or, more likely, that he is cooperating in some way that the people he is cooperating against are not supposed to know about.”

But many other people charged with storming the Capitol have reached cooperation agreements with the government and their cases have not been settled in secret, AP reports. Defendants who agreed to cooperate with the prosecution often had their sentencing hearings postponed until they completed their cooperation. “The fact that he was also convicted, went to prison and is already out is just unusual,” said Eliason, commenting on the ongoing secrecy of the files.

Lazar came to the Capitol on January 6 with a megaphone, ski goggles, a combat vest with a radio and camouflage face paint. Videos of the Capitol storming showed the 37-year-old approaching police lines outside the building and spraying an orange chemical irritant toward officers, AP reported, citing an FBI official’s testimony. Through his megaphone, the attacker insulted the police, calling them tyrants and shouting: “Let’s get their weapons!” Another video shows Lazar saying: “There is a time for peace and a time for war.”

But there may still be light in the darkness that surrounds the Lazar case. Judge Jackson said in May that the media could renew its request to release court records. Their lawyers have until September 29th to “file an updated status report setting out their position or positions on this matter.”

Sources: Associated Press