A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday ordered “Zip Tie Guy” Eric Munchel and his mother, Lisa Marie Eisenhart, held behind bars pending trial on charges connected to their alleged involvement with the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol.
Munchel and his mother were arrested in Tennessee. A magistrate judge there ordered the mother/son duo released pending trial. The Tennessee magistrate judge, Jeffrey S. Frensley, stayed that order pending the government’s appeal; it was further stayed by Chief Washington, D.C. Federal Judge Beryl A. Howell. Wednesday’s order by Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth officially reversed the original Tennessee magistrate’s release order.
“[T]he Court concludes that no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of the community if it releases the defendants pending trial,” said Lamberth in a 17-page order.
Judge Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, described Munchel’s background in only marginally reconciliatory terms:
Munchel is a thirty-year-old resident of Nashville. He is Eisenhart’s son. He is currently unemployed, but previously worked for Brewhouse South and Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk and Rock ‘N’ Roll Steakhouse. Munchel has twice been convicted for possession of marijuana in Georgia state courts. He once failed to appear in court during the proceedings in his most recent conviction, but Munchel’s counsel represented-and the government accepted-that Munchel did not receive notice of the hearing and promptly corrected his omission.
Eisenhart has no criminal history and worked as a traveling nurse, he noted.
Court documents say the mother and son made last-minute travel decisions to go to Washington, D.C. “They brought with them a pair of tactical vests, which can be worn over regular clothing to provide protection and carry items . . . and Munchel brought a taser and a knife.” They arrived on Jan. 5th. Both attended President Donald Trump’s rally on the Ellipse and then marched to the U.S. Capitol. Munchel carried a Taser and recorded a 50-minute-long video on his iPhone.
Then, per the judge (citations to the transcript and specific evidence numbers omitted):
As they approached the Capitol, Munchel and Eisenhart pushed through the crowd. They met members of the Oath Keepers militia, and Munchel bumped fists with one of the militiamen. Eisenhart then told Munchel, “We’re going straight to federal prison if we go in there with weapons.” Munchel responded that he would not go into the Capitol, but Eisenhart suggested that they stash “’em” in their backpacks. Munchel removed a fanny pack and put it in a tactical bag, which he stashed outside the Capitol. Munchel admits that he stashed a knife; the reference to federal prison and plural weapons suggests he may have put other, more dangerous, weapons in the bag as well. And he kept his taser holstered on his hip. Eisenhart then encouraged him to enter the Capitol, saying “the [tear] gas isn’t bad.”
Having apparently partially disarmed themselves, Munchel and Eisenhart again pushed towards the Capitol. Eisenhart encouraged a man who claimed to have “punched two of them in the face,” telling him “[w]hile everyone else is on their couch, you guys are training, and getting ready for it.” Munchel told another member of the crowd that he is “fucking ready to fuck shit up” and that “we’re not playing fucking nice no god damn more.” And when Eisenhart heard a report that Congress was “shut down” by tear gas she exclaimed that “they got tear-gassed, motherfuckers” and proclaimed it her “best day to know they got tear-gassed.” In front of the Capitol, Munchel told Eisenhart that this is “probably the last time I’11 be able to enter the building with armor and … fucking weapons.”
After breaking the capitol building, Munchel is seen on his own cell phone video spotting “plastic handcuffs,” the judge recounted.
“Zip ties!” Munchel yelled. “I need to get me some of those motherfuckers.”
He and his mother “took a handful and carried the plastic handcuffs into the Senate gallery,” the judge noted. “After leaving the gallery, Eisenhart told Munchel not to carry the plastic handcuffs, concluding that they ‘need[ed] to get them out of [their] hands.’ Later, Munchel took some home with him to Tennessee.”
Eisenhart eventually said that she took the zip tie handcuffs “to keep them away from ‘bad actors.'”
At one point, “Munchel looked down at the dais and said, ‘I want that fucking gavel,’ referring to the Senate’s priceless ivory artifact,” the document says.
It notes that Munchel never actually tried to take it. It further notes that neither Munchel nor Eisenhart “vandalized any property or physically harmed any person.”
A later search of Munchel’s home turned up fifteen firearms “and a large quantity of loaded magazines.”
Yet the pair must remain behind bars, the judge said.
Under the relevant law, a judge must consider four factors when determining whether a defendant must be released prior to his or her trial. Those factors are (1) “the nature and the circumstances of the offense charged,” (2) “the weight of the evidence against the person,” e.g., the risk of flight, (3) “the history and characteristics of the person,” and (4) “the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person’s release.”
As to point (1), the judge ruled that the applicable charges were serious enough felonies to permit the government to proceed with its request to keep Munchel locked up.
The judge seemingly trolled Munchel’s employment status yet again while ruling that he was not a flight risk under point (2) of the requisite inquiry.
“Munchel’s risk of flight is minimal,” the judge rationed. “He does not have a passport or the financial means to flee the country. And he voluntarily surrendered to the FBI in Nashville.”
Point (3) weighed heavily in favor of the government, the judge ruled, because of the egregious nature of the alleged acts.
“Munchel used force to subvert a democratic election and arrest the peaceful transfer of power,” the judge noted while reciting the grand jury charges but without passing judgment as to the defendant’s guilt or innocence. “Such conduct threatens the republic itself.” (Here, Judge Lamberth threw in a few George Washington quotes for good measure.). “Indeed, few offenses are more threatening to our way of life,” the judge concluded the thought by saying.
But he ripped the defendant — and his attorneys — in a subsequent series of paragraphs:
Munchel ‘s alleged conduct demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law. Munchel is alleged to have taken part in a mob, which displaced the elected legislature in an effort to subvert our constitutional government and the will of more than 81 million voters. Munchel’ s alleged conduct indicates that he is willing to use force to promote his political ends. Such conduct poses a clear risk to the community.
Defense counsel’s portrayal of the alleged offenses as mere trespassing or civil disobedience is both unpersuasive and detached from reality. First, Munchel’s alleged conduct carried great potential for violence. Munchel went into the Capitol armed with a taser. He carried plastic handcuffs. He threatened to “break” anyone who vandalized the Capitol.3 These were not peaceful acts. Second, Munchel’s alleged conduct occurred while Congress was finalizing the results of a Presidential election. Storming the Capitol to disrupt the counting of electoral votes is not the akin to a peaceful sit-in.
“By word and deed, Munchel has supported the violent overthrow of the United States government. He poses a clear danger to our republic,” the judge concluded.
Judge Lamberth decided that point (4) also weighed against Munchel’s release given the defendant’s “brazen actions in front of hundreds of law enforcement officers and manifest disrespect for the rule_of law.”
“A determined defendant can cut off an ankle monitor, ignore travel restrictions, elude a third-party custodian, unlawfully rearm, and endanger his community,” the judge hypothesized.
As to Eisenhart, the judge’s analysis was similar. Though she was unlikely to flee and had a clean criminal history, Lamberth was highly concerned about Eisenhart’s professed willingness to engage in revolution.
“Her words were chilling,” Lamberth wrote, then quoted Eisenhart herself:
This country was founded on revolution. If they’re going to take every legitimate means from us, and we can’t even express ourselves on the internet, we won’t even be able to speak freely, what is America for? I’d rather die as a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression. I’d rather die and would rather fight.
“The Court takes Eisenhart at her word,” Lamberth concluded. “She, like her son, invoked the American Revolution, indicating support for violent revolt. In fact, she even indicated that she was willing to give her life in support of her cause. Thus, Eisenhart too has indicated that she is willing to repeat her behavior. By word and deed, Eisenhart has supported the violent overthrow of the United States government. As a self-avowed, would-be martyr, she poses a clear danger to our republic.”
Read the judge’s order below:
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