Judge orders continued detention for Jan 6 riot defendant who sprayed police

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol Building is stormed by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Monday ordered continued pre-trial detention for a Pennsylvania man charged with spraying a chemical irritant on police officers during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she found there was “clear and convincing evidence” to justify continuing detention of felony riot defendant Samuel Lazar, 37, of Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Prosecutors have alleged he was “obsessed” with firearms and Trump’s false claims that his defeat in the 2020 presidential election was the result of widespread fraud.

Quoting profane and aggressive statements and internet postings by Lazar, and citing his wearing of goggles and a tactical vest when approaching police outside the Capitol building, Jackson said she found a claim by Lazar that he accidentally found a can of pepper spray difficult to believe.

The judge said Lazar “immediately weaponizes” the spray “and not in self defense.”

The defendant chose to characterize the Capitol disorder in which he participated “as a war” and his “bellicose attitude… adds to the level of concern here,” Jackson said.

In court papers the government alleged that Lazar, wearing a tactical vest and goggles, pushed his way to the front of a line of police guarding the Capitol and used a bullhorn to encourage rioters to grab police weapons.

Prosecutors have said Lazar “discharged a chemical irritant at three police officers” and later “bragged in a video about macing police.”

More than 660 defendants have been arrested on riot-related charges for the Capitol assault in which supporters of then-President Trump attempted to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the November election.

At a previous hearing, Matthew Wilson, Lazar’s defense lawyer, described the alleged conduct as “an aberration” and said Lazar should be released to home detention instead of being held in prison.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Berkrot)