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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Keeps ‘Zip-Tie Guy’ Under Lock & Key

A federal judge in Washington blocked the release of the man who was photographed carrying plastic handcuffs in the U.S. Senate chamber during this month’s insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

Federal prosecutors say Eric Munchel should not be released on bail, citing the possibility that he committed an assault after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

(CN) — A federal judge in Washington blocked the release of the man who was photographed carrying plastic handcuffs in the U.S. Senate chamber during this month’s insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

In a pair of 1-page orders issued Sunday, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Beryl Howell stayed release orders that would have freed Munchel as of 11 a.m. Monday morning.

Munchel is charged Washington with violent entry on Capitol grounds, a felony, as well as the misdemeanor crime of entering a restricted building. Since he was arrested on Jan. 10 in Tennessee, however, the 30-year-old defendant made his initial appearance and a subsequent detention hearing in U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffery Frensley agreed Friday evening to release the Nashville man under house arrest until the criminal proceedings against him resolved, saying he did not find Munchel a danger to the community.

Earning the nickname “zip-tie guy” in the media, Munchel is said to be the masked man pictured in a photograph from the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol carrying a stun gun and wearing a tactical vest while he climbed over a railing in the Senate chamber. The photograph has become one of the most memorable images from that day and was included along with several others in a 20-page appeal and emergency stay request prosecutors filed Sunday.

“(It) is difficult to fathom a more serious danger to the community — to the District of Columbia, to the country, or to the fabric of American democracy — than the one posed by armed insurrectionists, including the defendant, who joined in the occupation of the United States Capitol,” the prosecutors wrote. 

Howell stayed Munchel’s release so the court can review the detention decision. The judge also directed that the U.S. Marshals Service move Munchel to Washington.

The appeal cites new evidence not presented at last week’s detention hearing that Munchel was identified as the person who assaulted a man he claimed was “antifa” at a hotel the evening after the events at the Capitol.

“According to the Anti-Defamation league, antifa is a loosely organized anti-fascist protest movement that, in some instances, has engaged in violent confrontations,” prosecutors wrote in a footnote of the motion.

Bloomberg reporter William Turton tweeted about the hotel altercation with Trump extremists, and that exchange also appears in the government’s motion, quoting Munchel “put his hands on me and screamed at me,” demanding that Turton delete video footage he was taking of the hotel lobby.

Arguing for Munchel’s detention, prosecutors wrote, “The defendant appears to have assaulted a person whom he, for no reason, associated with a rival extremist group.”

At some point that same evening, police in Washington confiscated a black and yellow stun gun Munchel was carrying.

Furthermore, the prosecutors argued the 15 firearms that law enforcement discovered when they searched Munchel’s Nashville residence — despite being legal to own in that state — demonstrate he continues to have the “continued capacity to carry out the sort or (sic) fear and intimidation campaign in which he partook on January 6.”

The public defender who represented Munchel at the detention hearing in Nashville, Caryll Alpert, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Munchel faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Munchel allegedly entered the Capitol with his mother, Lisa Eisenhart. Her detention hearing in Nashville is scheduled for Monday afternoon before Judge Frensley.

Follow @jcksndnl
Categories / Appeals, Criminal, Politics

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