| Nashville Tennessean
The Nashville man believed to have brought plastic hand restraints into the U.S. Capitol will stay in custody until at least next week, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Eric Munchel, 30, was accused by online researchers as being one of the men who carried zip ties into the U.S. Capitol during the deadly riot Wednesday after a rally in support of outgoing President Donald Trump.
He was arrested over the weekend and now faces federal charges.
The FBI reported photos of a person believed to be Munchel carrying plastic restraints, an item in a holster on his right hip and a cellphone mounted on his chest with the camera facing outward among the “crowd of individuals who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted, and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate” on Jan. 6.
“Law enforcement interviewed Munchel and identified that he was carrying a black and yellow ‘Taser Pulse’ taser that emits electrical shock,” FBI Special Agent Carlos D Fontanez wrote in the affidavit supporting Munchel’s arrest.
Munchel, the affidavit continues, told agents he had the Taser for self-protection as he had participated in the pro-Trump rally.
The person carrying the restraints has been nicknamed “zip tie guy” on social media because of the resemblance between the restraints and the common plastic fasteners.
Judge orders Eric Munchel to remain in custody
Munchel appeared by video in federal court on Monday for an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Chip Frensley.
The defendant testified he was unable to afford an attorney for himself, the only time he spoke during the proceedings, and was appointed counsel from the office of the Federal Public Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Munchel faces charges including knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The first charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, Frensley said. The second carries a potential maximum of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors asked that he remain in custody until he can be transferred to Washington, D.C. Munchel’s defense might fight to keep the case, and the defendant, in Middle Tennessee.
A hearing on the case has been set for Tuesday morning and also is expected to be held virtually in light of COVID-19 precautions.
“I want to remind you that it’s very important that you communicate with them (attorneys) about your case. You need to speak openly and freely with them,” Frensley said. “You don’t talk to them and communicate with them, it’s real hard for them to represent you. We have challenges in the COVID era, and they’re going to work through those things, and I need to work with them so that they can do everything they can to represent you.”
Experts on extremism have pointed to the possibility that the rioters planned to use the cuffs to carry out vigilante justice against government officials.
However, Munchel has so far not been charged by the federal government of planning to use the cuffs in any plot.
Munchel remained in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office on Monday afternoon.