Magistrate judge allows release of man in Capitol riot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A magistrate judge will allow the release of a Tennessee man who carried flexible plastic handcuffs around the U.S. Capitol during the recent raid by Trump supporters.

After testimony at a detention hearing, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley determined Friday that Eric Munchel wasn’t a flight risk and didn’t pose harm to the public, the Tennessean reported. Munchel could be released from federal custody as early as Monday.

“It’s not clear what his motive was,” Frensley said. “It’s not clear what his intent was. The proof on these issues is inconsistent.”

The judge determined that it was clear Munchel’s goal was to disrupt the government, the newspaper reported.

The court heard testimony from character witnesses supporting Munchel and an FBI agent who assisted in searching the man’s home in Nashville. The search turned up assault rifles, a sniper rifle with a tripod, shotguns, pistols, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a drum-style magazine.

Federal prosecutors argued that Munchel’s offenses are serious and he should be detained pending trial to “ensure the safety of the community.”

While Frensley will allow Munchel’s release from custody, he granted a temporary stay until Monday. Munchel will remain in custody until a ruling from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the newspaper reported.

Munchel is charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, conspiracy and civil disorder. He faces up to 20 years if convicted.

Munchel has been in federal custody since his arrest on Jan. 10 when he turned himself over to authorities. Conditions of his release include staying in the home of a Nashville woman who testified that she viewed Munchel as a son, the newspaper reported.

In a memorandum in support of detention, prosecutors said Munchel traveled to Washington with his mother, Lisa Eisenhart, who has also been charged in the Capitol riot. The two participated in Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in which the former president repeated his baseless claims of election fraud and exhorted the crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

Munchel “perceived himself to be a revolutionary, in the mold of those who overthrew the British government in the American Revolution,” according to court filings. He was “dressed for combat” with “combat boots, military fatigues, a tactical vest, gloves, and a gaiter that covered all of his face except for his eyes,” documents state. He also wore a stun gun on his hip and mounted a cellphone to his chest to record events.