by Julie Kelly
He is known as the “zip tie guy.”
In one of the most iconic photographs of the January 6 Capitol melee, Eric Munchel, wearing tactical gear, is seen holding up a fistful of zip ties in the Senate gallery. Munchel, the media quickly concluded, brought the flex cuffs to arrest lawmakers attempting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. The woman photographed with him later was identified as his mother, Lisa Eisenhart.
The top federal prosecutor who handled the first two months of the Justice Department’s Capitol breach probe recently bragged that Munchel was one of the first protestors targeted in the agency’s unprecedented 50-state manhunt for alleged “insurrectionists.”
Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told “60 Minutes” that he authorized the arrest of more than 100 people prior to January 20 in a display of “shock and awe” to intimidate Americans who planned to protest Joe Biden’s inauguration; he specifically referred to the detention of the “the zip tie guy” as a way to send a message. “We wanted to take out those individuals that essentially were thumbing their noses at the public for what they did.”
Munchel and Eisenhart, once they realized they were under investigation, turned themselves in to law enforcement a few days after the Capitol protest. Government prosecutors successfully fought to keep both behind bars pending their trial although they committed no violent crime and had remained in the building for less than 15 minutes; on January 24, the D.C. federal judge presiding over the Capitol investigation ordered both defendants transported from Tennessee to a Washington jail to await their day in court.
Prosecutors darkly warned in late January the two Americans could be the first Capitol defendants to be charged with sedition, a crime almost never applied to U.S. citizens.
A Major Blow to the Prosecution
And that’s when the case against Munchel and Eisenhart began to fall apart. In fact, several cases now face an uphill battle as the Justice Department’s abusive overreach related to January 6 is exposed in federal court.
In a major blow to both prosecutors and judges who’ve signed off on dozens of orders to deny bail to Capitol breach defendants—including nonviolent offenders such as Munchel and Eisenhart—the D.C. Court of Appeals on March 26 asked a lower court to “consider anew the government’s motion for detention” for the pair.
The three judges carefully deconstructed the charges against mother and son, noting neither has been accused of violence such as assault or destruction of property. One judge argued the detention order should be reversed, not revisited. In his partial dissent, Judge Gregory Katsas took aim at the Justice Department’s exaggerated case.
“While there, they attempted neither violence nor vandalism,” Katsas wrote. “They searched for no Members of Congress, and they harassed no police officers. They found plastic handcuffs by chance, but never threatened to use them. Munchel’s threat to ‘break’ anyone who vandalized the Capitol was intended to prevent destruction and was addressed to no one in particular.”
Katsas detailed how both defendants fully cooperated with authorities, both were employed at the time of surrender—Eisenhart has been a nurse for 30 years—and neither has a criminal record with the exception of Munchel’s two marijuana possession charges from several years ago.
The only felony the government could come up with to charge Munchel and Eisenhart—who are being charged together—is “obstruction of an official proceeding,” which is an enhancement count filed against defendants charged with misdemeanors.
After the court’s spanking, the government withdrew its detention order on March 29: Munchel and Eisenhart will now live under the same home detention rules a Tennessee judge ordered more than two months ago and that the government successfully appealed.
The appellate court order had a quick impact on other cases. That same day, another federal judge, citing the court’s opinion, challenged the Justice Department’s pre-trial detention motions for two members of the Oath Keepers, a group facing conspiracy charges for its role in the Capitol breach.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ordered the release of Donovan Crowl and Connie Meggs. (On March 24, Mehta released Laura Steele, a defendant in the Oath Keepers case, and on March 12, Mehta released an ailing 66-year-old veteran prosecutors accused, without evidence, of helping Oath Keepers plan to storm the building.) The government then withdrew its detention request for another Oath Keeper, Graydon Young, on March 29.
No Sedition Charges So Far
Despite heavy-handed threats and braggadocio about pending “sedition” cases, nearly three months later, the Justice Department has nothing even close to this boast—and their mouthpieces in the media are getting nervous.