- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A federal judge has ordered the Capitol rioter known as “zip tie guy” and his mom to be released from jail ahead of their trial, signaling a softer approach to defendants jailed for relatively minor offenses stemming from the Jan. 6 attack.

Eric Munchel, known as the “zip tie guy” and his mother, Lisa Eisenhart, have been held in essentially solitary confinement in a Washington jail since their arrest in January. They are charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth released the pair Monday evening to “third-party custodians.” Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart will have their locations monitored at all times and are banned from using the internet or contacting others involved in the riot.

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.

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.

Many of the Capitol riot suspects are being held on trespassing and other lesser charges. Nearly 25% of the more than 230 defendants charged so far face misdemeanors, according to an analysis by The Washington Times.

For example, more than 150 defendants were hit with the charge of obstructing an official proceeding, compared to 64 defendants charged with the more serious offense of assaulting an officer. A total of three suspects have been charged with possession of a destructive device.

It is not clear how many riot suspects are currently behind bars. Those in custody are treated as “maximum security prisoners” and being held in “restrictive housing” in a Washington jail, a corrections official told a federal judge earlier this month.

The official said at a hearing for Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart that a suspect’s role in the riot could make the person a target for other inmates.

At the same hearing, Judge Lamberth said he didn’t have the power to intervene in how inmates were classified in Washington’s jail system unless it was so “irrational” that it required judicial action.

Judge Lamberth changed his mind this week after a strong rebuke from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In a decision last week, the appellate court criticized Judge Lamberth for labeling Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart as dangers to the community.

The court sent the case back to Judge Lamberth saying he should release the duo.

Judge Lamberth’s order did not explain the sudden change of heart, but it more closely aligns with a decision by a federal magistrate judge in Mr. Munchel’s home state of Tennessee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey S. Frensely ordered the pair’s release, saying neither defendant had an extensive criminal history and are not serious flight risks. When the case was moved to Washington, Judge Lamberth concluded the mother and son posed a threat and ordered them held until trial.

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