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Federal judge blocks release of Capitol riot suspect Eric Munchel

Eric Munchell
Posted at 1:21 PM, Jan 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-24 14:21:22-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., has blocked the release of Capitol riot suspect Eric Munchel, less than two days after a federal magistrate had rule the Nashville man could be released on Monday.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell ordered that Munchel, 31, continued to be held and that he be transported by U.S. marshals from Nashville, where he was arrested, to D.C. for further proceedings.

U.S. Magistrate Chip Frensley had ruled Friday that, based on the evidence presented, Munchel did not propose a flight risk, that he "fell" in with the mob involved in the Capitol insurrection, but did not represent a continuing threat.

Prosecutors say Munchel was the man photographed in the U.S. Senate gallery wearing camouflage, carrying several sets of flex-tie handcuffs with a stun gun on his right hip. Testimony indicated that he picked up the handcuffs inside the Capitol.

In their motion to block his release, prosecutors presented new allegations that, following the uprising, Munchel had threatened a man at a D.C. hotel whom he believed to be a member of antifa.

"It is difficult to fathom a more serious danger to the community—to the District of Columbia, to the country, or to the fabric of American Democracy—than the one posed by armed insurrectionists, including the defendant, who joined in the occupation of the United States Capitol," prosecutors wrote in their motion.

"Every person who was present without authority in the Capitol on January 6 contributed to the chaos of that day and the danger posed to law enforcement, the Vice President, Members of Congress, and the peaceful transfer of power. The defendant’s specific conduct aggravated the chaos and danger. It was designed to intimidate Members of Congress and instigate fear across the country.

"Make no mistake: the fear the defendant helped spread on January 6 persists—the imprint on this country’s history of a militia clad insurrectionist standing over an occupied Senate chamber is indelible. Only detention mitigates such grave danger."

Munchel will likely face another detention hearing before the D.C. judge.