Capitol riot’s ‘zip tie’ man, mother get new chance at bail

David Yaffe-Bellany

A man caught carrying hand restraints at the U.S. Capitol riot will get a new chance at release on bail, after the federal appeals court in Washington ordered a judge to reconsider a ruling that he and his mother be held pending trial.

The man, Eric Munchel, became one the early emblems of the Jan. 6 riot after he was seen on camera carrying plastic handcuffs, known as zip ties, around the building. He was accompanied by his mother, Lisa Eisenhart, who was captured in video footage chanting, “Treason! Treason!” inside the Capitol, according to prosecutors. Both have pleaded not guilty.

This booking photo released by the Metro Nashville, Tenn., Police Department, shows Lisa Marie Eisenhart, left, and Eric Gavelek Munchel.

A magistrate judge in Tennessee initially concluded that Munchel and Eisenhart weren’t flight risks and could be released on bail with strict conditions, including GPS monitoring. But after a hearing in February, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington ordered their detention on the grounds that Munchel was carrying a dangerous weapon in the Capitol. Munchel had a Taser stun device holstered on his hip, according to the U.S.

Friday’s appellate decision ordering Lamberth to reconsider his bail ruling comes as the U.S. faces mounting pushback from defense lawyers and some judges against its efforts to swiftly prosecute hundreds of people accused of storming the Capitol to try to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the November presidential election. The decision articulated an emerging distinction between various degrees of wrongdoing at the Capitol, noting that Munchel and Eisenhart “did not vandalize any property or commit violence.”

Assault vs. Encouragement

“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,” the appeals court said.

The order, by a three-judge panel of the court, fell short of a full reversal of the bail decision. The panel simply directed the district court to engage in further fact finding before reaching a new decision.

“We conclude that the District Court did not demonstrate that it adequately considered, in light of all the record evidence, whether Munchel and Eisenhart present an identified and articulable threat to the community,” it said.

The case is U.S. v. Munchel, 21-3010, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia (Washington).