Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Man who allegedly entered Senate chamber with taser, cuffs is ordered released pending trial

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“I have no reason to believe Mr. Munchel is part of an organized, collective action against the government,” Frensley said. “The court believes … Mr. Munchel does not pose an obvious and clear danger to the safety of this community.”

Frensley ordered Munchel into home detention with location monitoring as he awaits trial on felony charges of conspiracy and engaging in civil disorder, as well as misdemeanors of unlawful entry to a restricted building and disorderly conduct.

Prosecutors indicated plans to appeal the release order to a judge in Washington, D.C., as they are doing in at least three other cases related to the riot. Frensley agreed to keep Munchel in custody until Monday at 11 a.m. ET, while prosecutors seek relief from the D.C. judge.

However, Frensley suggested prosecutors’ presentation was designed more to play on the emotions triggered by the Capitol attack than to address the legal factors dictating when a defendant should be released.

“I’ve made my decision,” the magistrate said. “I’m comfortable and confident that the rulings I’ve made in this case are correct.”

One factor that clearly played in Munchel’s favor: he traveled to Washington, D.C., and entered the Capitol alongside his mother, Lisa Eisenhart. She, too, is charged in the case, but testimony during a lengthy hearing Friday indicated that Eisenhart was the one who suggested they enter the Capitol.

Frensley also heard that Munchel allegedly stashed a pocket knife in a backpack and left it outside. In a video, he can be heard saying he did not want to bring weapons into the Capitol. Munchel’s lawyer, Caryll Alpert, said Munchel believed the taser he had on him was legal to bring into the Capitol because he’d encountered D.C. police the night before and they did not attempt to take it from him.

Prosecutors stressed Munchel’s boisterous behavior in the Senate, shouting phrases such as, “I want that f—ing gavel!”

“He clearly possesses views that are extreme if he was willing to participate in that sort of conduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader said. “There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t engage in this conduct in the future. I have no idea what form that would take. He has shown the court what he is willing to do in stark terms.”

Late in the hearing, as it became increasingly evident that Frensley was likely to order Munchel’s release, a Washington-based prosecutor jumped into the videoconference hearing to contend that Munchel might attack others with conflicting political views.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ahmed Baset sought to present evidence that on the night of the riot, Munchel threatened and put his hands on a Bloomberg News reporter at a Washington, D.C., hotel. However, Frensley said the evidence portion of the hearing was over and he declined to consider it.

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