During the course of the whirlwind days when the so-called “Zip Tie Guy” from the U.S. Capitol insurrection was ordered released by one judge on Friday—only to be kept behind bars by another on Sunday—a quiet revelation hitting his case’s docket barely received notice. Federal prosecutors disclosed that more serious charges against Eric Gavelek Munchel may be imminent, including an exceedingly rare sedition charge.
“The evidence amassed so far subjects the defendant to felonies beyond that with which he has been charged so far, including obstructing Congress, interstate travel in furtherance of rioting activity, sedition, and other offenses,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ahmet Baset on Sunday, referring to Munchel. “These offenses carry substantial penalties, which incentivizes flight and evading law enforcement—a thought that the defendant already appears to have contemplated by virtue of avoiding his residence and workplace, terminating his Facebook account, and leaving his cell phone with an associate.”
That warning helped persuade Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, from the District of D.C., to block a magistrate’s order that would have had Munchel await trial in home detention.
Munchel’s mom allegedly rioted with him and brought an enormous stash of weapons to the Capitol—but not inside it.
“We’re going straight to federal prison if we go in there with weapons,” Lisa Eisenhart could be heard saying in a video from the siege, according to prosecutors.
Since seditious conspiracy charges require two or more people to oppose the authority of the United States, former Southern District of New York federal prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers believed Munchel’s machinations with his mother may have helped spark more serious charges against him.
“I think it’s a huge development,” Rodgers told Law&Crime in a phone interview. “If they charge this guy and presumably his mother with seditious conspiracy, then that means they’re open to doing that in other cases, too.”
The recent legal brief seeking Munchel’s continued detention gives a previously undisclosed bird’s-eye view of the threat authorities faced on Jan. 6.
“In the course of the insurrection, approximately 81 Capitol Police and 58 MPD officers were assaulted, including one Capitol Police officer who died,” prosecutors wrote, abbreviating the name of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. “Additionally, four citizens died; many media members were assaulted and had cameras and other news gathering equipment destroyed; and the Capitol suffered substantial damage—including broken windows and doors, graffiti, and residue of various pepper sprays, tear gas, and fire extinguishers deployed both by insurgents who stormed the Capitol and by Capitol Police officers trying to restore order.”
Given the 139 assaulted law enforcement officers, and the widespread evidence of coordination, Rodgers predicted that any sedition charges against Munchel would have plenty of company.
“People arrived together on buses and other modes of transportation,” Rodgers added. “We had the Proud Boys there with their orange beanies. We had people in T-shirts that they had made. So there was definitely lots of group activity, so that suggest coordination. And we also know there’s going to be plenty of evidence coming in the form of digital communications between these these people and these groups. So, the fact that they’re willing to go there and to bring us seditious conspiracy charge suggests to me that it’ll just be the first of many such charges they bring.”
On Jan. 12, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin signaled this development during a press conference announcing the creation of a sedition “strike force” staffed with national-security and public corruption prosecutors.
“Their only marching orders from me are to build sedition and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol, and these are significant charges that have felonies with a prison terms of up to 20 years,” Sherwin told reporters at the time.
Experts note that such charges are exceedingly rare.
“It’s very, very rare, because events like what happened on January 6th are so rare,” Rodgers noted. “Can you think of another event where you had people conspiring to overthrow the government or to stop the execution of law?”
A former deputy chief of her district, Rodgers noted that she never brought a sedition charge and doesn’t know if it ever has been charged in her office.
[Eric Gavelek Munchel via Win McNamee at Getty Images]
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