The Jan. 6 unrest at the U.S. Capitol has given rise to all manner of political opportunism and prosecutorial overreach in a transparent attempt to paint conservatives as prone to violent insurgency at a moment’s notice. However, a recent appeals court decision has moved the needle, albeit only slightly, toward justice for two of those accused of committing crimes that fateful day.
According to the Washington Examiner, a three-judge appeals court panel caused a lower court judge to reverse a ruling that kept the so-called “zip tie guy” from the Capitol protests – together with his mother – in custody until trial, finding that the Justice Department (DOJ) failed to demonstrate that they posed a serious risk to the community at large.
The defendants in question, Eric Munchel and Lisa Eisenhart, were arrested in January for allegedly making their way into the Capitol building, with Muchel sporting tactical gear and toting large zip ties which he had found and seized to prevent their use by miscreants (thus the aforementioned media-given moniker). The mother-and-son duo are currently facing charges of unlawful entry, civil disorder, violent entry, and conspiracy as a result, the Examiner noted.
From the start, DOJ prosecutors requested that the two be kept in custody in advance of trial, but in January, a magistrate judge in Tennessee ordered that they be given conditions of home detention instead.
Subsequently, the release orders were stayed, and U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lambert ordered their return to detention, finding that they represented a threat to the community as well as to the republic itself, opining that Munchel’s conduct “indicate[d] that he is willing to use force to promote his political ends.”
This ruling was rejected late last month, and the lower court was ordered to reconsider the merits of the arguments from each side. Barack Obama nominee Judge Robert Wilkins authored the appeals court opinion, saying:
It cannot be gainsaid that the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a grave danger to our democracy, and that those who participated could rightly be subject to detention to safeguard the community.
But we have a grave constitutional obligation to ensure that the facts and circumstances of each case warrant this exceptional treatment.
The opinion took pains to note that Munchel and Eisenhart did not participate in any assaults on Jan. 6, did not enter the Capitol facilities by force, and did not engage in vandalism of any sort, and these were all factors that go against the premises that they pose an ongoing threat to the community. The panel went on to add:
In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way.
In response to the appeals court order to reconsider, Judge Lamberth of the lower court ordered the pair released once prosecutors abandoned their efforts to keep them incarcerated until trial, according to News Channel 5 in Nashville.
Lambeth’s new order puts back into effect the original release conditions outlined by the Nashville magistrate, which require home detention as well as electronic monitoring, terms with which the courts have little reason to believe Munchel and Eisenhart will not fully comply.