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Eric Munchel may soon go free, but other Tennesseans could still be charged in Capitol riot

Capitol riots
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:08:01-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Eric Munchel is accused of federal felonies and potentially faces years behind bars for his alleged role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

But Munchel is currently locked up in Nashville and he's not alone. There are other Tennesseans now looking to hire lawyers, anticipating they too will soon be arrested and joining Munchel.

He has been dubbed the zip-tie guy. Munchel faces serious charges but is expected to be set free next week with the expectation he shows up for trial.

By now, most of us know Munchel from these images from the Senate gallery -- wearing a mask, armed with a weapon, holding zip ties often used to restrain prisoners.

Eric Munchell
These photos were provided in court documents by the FBI. The original images were taken by Win McNamee for Getty Images. This image was taken directly from court documents, including the watermark on the images.

He's charged with violent entry to the U.S. Capitol and disorderly conduct but that may not be enough to hold him in custody.

"Under extremely serious circumstances they can detain a person without bond. I don't see that happening here," said attorney David Raybin.

More likely, at a hearing next Tuesday, the federal magistrate will release Muchel on a signature bond -- no money, but lots of restrictions.

"Probably to wear a monitor and not be allowed to leave Tennessee or Washington," said Raybin who is a constitutional scholar.

He does not represent Munchel, but says he's heard from others who were at the riot, who fear they will now be arrested and who want to hire him. "I have had several people call me who were there who are from Tennessee," said Raybin.

He's told them to hire Washington lawyers because that's where the cases will be tried. "They described for me the events and that they thought Trump was behind them literally or figuratively."

But now, Munchel and others are on their own. What possible defense do they have? Raybin says there are possible arguments.

"I was doing this to make a political statement. It's a 1st Amendment right. it's the people's house. I was wearing a mask because of COVID," explained Raybin.

So many of them in media reports are now trying to downplay their roles in what happened. But if there is video of them, and there's lots of video out there, it won't be easy. The judge may release Munchel next week.

But anyone who thinks that's a sign these cases are not being taken seriously would be wrong. Raybin says the government is going to come down on those charged like a ton of bricks. If convicted, Munchel and others with similar charges face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

They may not stand trial because of COVID delays - until later this fall.