- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2021

A federal appeals court said the U.S. Capitol rioter dubbed the “zip-tie guy” and his mother should be released from jail ahead of their trials because the pair does not pose a danger to the community.

The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia doesn’t automatically release Eric Munchel, known as the “zip-tie guy” and his mother, Lisa Eisenhart. Instead, it sends the case back to the U.S. District Court in Washington for further review.

Judge Gregory Katsas, a Trump appointee, dissented, saying the majority’s decision didn’t go far enough. He said the decision to detain the pair should be reversed outright instead of remanded back to the lower court.

During the mayhem at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Mr. Munchel was photographed hopping a guardrail in the Senate chamber dressed in full tactical gear while holding a taser and a fistful of plastic zip-tie handcuffs.

Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart were arrested and both face one count of entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the pair to be held in a local jail at a security level that is essentially solitary confinement. He said the pair could not be safely released into the community.

Attorneys for the pair have appealed that decision, and the appeals court ordered the trial judge to review his decision.

“Here the District Court did not adequately demonstrate that it considered whether Munchel and Eisenhart posed an articulable threat to the community in view of their conduct on Jan 6,” the majority wrote.

Judges Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee, and Karen Henderson, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said Judge Lamberth should take a second look at his decision.

All three judges said prosecutors did not present any evidence indicating that Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart vandalized any property, physically harmed anyone, or even entered the Capitol by force.

“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,” the majority wrote.

In his dissent, Judge Katsas said the trial court offered no evidence why Mr. Munchel and his mom would remain a threat to the community after the circumstances of Jan. 6 passed.

Media pundits and prosecutors seized on the presence of the zip ties, speculating that Mr. Munchel and others planned to take Congress members hostage.

The Justice Department later conceded in a court filing that the pair found the restraints on a table inside the Capitol building. The filing said Mr. Munchel and his mother took the zip ties to ensure the Capitol Police couldn’t use them on rioters.

The zip-tie intentions of the mother-and-son suspects, however, are not clear. The prosecutors said Mr. Munchel and his mom “followed after” two Capitol Police officers while carrying the restraints.

During a lengthy detention hearing in January before a federal judge in Mr. Munchel’s home state of Tennessee, prosecutors warned that the restraints could have been used on lawmakers.

“There is every reason to think the defendant and his mother would have put those flexicuffs to use if they found lawmakers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader said.

Mr. Schrader pushed the judge to hold the pair until their trial.

Despite pleas from prosecutors, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey S. Frensley ordered their release, saying neither defendant has an extensive criminal history, and they are not serious flight risks.

Judge Frensley also noted that he could craft conditions that would guarantee their appearance at trial, despite the “emotional” arguments from Mr. Schrader.

Judge Lamberth ultimately ruled that the pair couldn’t be safely released into the community.

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