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Judge must reconsider release of 'zip-tie guy' and his mother, appeals court rules

Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 11:45:45-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Capitol riot suspect Eric Munchel, the so-called "zip-tie guy," and his mother Lisa Eisenhart will have a new opportunity to fight for their release from jail following a ruling from a federal appeals court.

The D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a federal judge must reconsider whether Munchel and Eisenhart pose a real threat to the community. Munchel is from Nashville, while Eisenhart is from Woodstock, Georgia.

"That Munchel and Eisenhart assaulted no one on January 6; that they did not enter the Capitol by force; and that they vandalized no property are all factors that weigh against a finding that either pose a threat of 'using force to promote [their] political ends,'" Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the two-person majority in the case.

"In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way."

Munchel was photographed in the Senate gallery, wearing camouflage and holding several sets of plastic flex cuffs that he had apparently picked up inside the Capitol.

Video showed Munchel and Eisenhart entering the building through an open door, walking past Capitol police officers who made no attempt to stop them.

U.S. Magistrate Chip Frensley in Nashville had ruled that conditions could be imposed to allow the pre-trial release of the son and mother, but a federal judge in D.C. had overruled that decision and ordered that the pair be held without bond while they awaited trial.

A third appellate judge dissented from Friday's opinion, saying the D.C. judge had clearly erred and should be ordered to immediately set conditions for their release.

"They searched for no Members of Congress, and they harassed no police officers," Judge Gregory S. Katsas wrote.

"They found plastic handcuffs by chance, but never threatened to use them. Munchel's threat to 'break' anyone who vandalized the Capitol was intended to prevent destruction."

The D.C. federal judge had also relied on tough talk from Munchel and Eisenhart to a reporter after the Capitol riot.

Katsas argued "the defendants' actual conduct belied their rhetorical bravado."

"During the chaos of the Capitol riot, Munchel and Eisenhart had ample opportunity to fight, yet neither of them did," the appellate judge added.

"Munchel lawfully possessed several firearms in his home, but he took none to the Capitol."

It is not clear when a new hearing for the pair will be set.