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Judge halts release of 'zip tie guy,' orders him moved to DC

Chief Judge Beryl Howell reversed a Tennessee magistrate's ruling allowing the release of Capitol riot suspect Eric Gavelek Munchel.

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in D.C. reversed a Tennessee magistrate judge’s decision on Sunday, ordering that Eric Gavelek Munchel – the Capitol riot suspect dubbed “zip tie guy” – be held without bond until trial.

On Friday, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley had ruled Munchel wasn’t a flight risk or danger to the public, and had allowed him to be released from federal custody as early as Monday.

Munchel was photographed climbing through the Senate chamber with law enforcement-style flex cuffs during the Capitol riot on January 6. During his sentencing hearing, Justice Department lawyers submitted video footage from Munchel’s cell phone showing that he and his mother had stashed weapons outside the Capitol building before entering.

Credit: Getty Images
In an unsealed affidavit, federal prosecutors accuse Eric Gavelek Munchel of unlawfully entering the U.S. Senate Chamber during the Capitol Breach.

But Frensley had found the evidence unpersuasive, saying, “It’s not clear what his intent was.”

On Sunday, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin filed an emergency appeal of Frensley’s order in U.S. District Court in D.C. The appeal included a new allegation not presented in Friday’s hearing that Munchel had been part of a group that had assaulted and threatened a Bloomberg reporter who they had mistakenly identified as being “antifa.”

The appeal argued that, contrary to Frensley’s ruling, Munchel could “make no serious claim that he went to the Capitol on January 6 intending to engage in peaceful protest or civil disobedience.”

“Instead,” Justice Department lawyers wrote, “the evidence supports the conclusion that he intended to contribute to chaos, obstruct the Electoral College certification, and sow fear.”

The Justice Department’s emergency motion was granted Sunday afternoon by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, who ordered a stay on Munchel’s release. Howell also ordered Munchel transported from the Middle District of Tennessee to the District of Columbia for further proceedings.

Munchel faces charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, entering a restricted building or grounds and violent entry or disorderly conduct. A pre-trial detention hearing was set for 1 p.m. Monday for his mother, Lisa Eisenhart, who faces the same charges for her participation in the Capitol riot.

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