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Judge Won’t Ease Up on Maximum Security Detention and Isolation for ‘Zip-Tie Guy’s’ Mother in Capitol Riot Case


Lisa Marie Eisenhart and Eric Gavelek Munchel

The mother seen entering the U.S. Capitol with her plastic handcuffs-wielding son must remain in maximum security lockup pending trial, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, finding that she did not prove that she has been treated any differently from anybody else charged in connection with the siege.

Lisa Marie Eisenhart came to be known as the mother of so-called “Zip-Tie Guy” Eric Gavelek Munchel, whom news wires captured captured hopping around the Senate chamber toting tactical restraints. Court papers indicate that she was also seen carrying flexicuffs.

Questioned about that, she allegedly replied: “We picked them up to prevent them falling into hands of bad actors.”

In late January, one federal judge ordered Munchel’s pre-trial release before another judge put the kibosh on that plan. Appearing to deflect blame within the family, Munchel’s lawyer Caryll S. Alpert said at the time that her client went into the Capitol to protect his mother.

Eisenhart’s attorney Gregory S. Smith has alleged that Eisenhart has been awaiting trial in solitary confinement and maximum security lockup, a move that he claim the Department of Corrections defaults to as a matter of course for accused Capitol rioters.

“By the DOC’s own admission, if a defendant is charged with a January 6th U.S. Capitol offense and detained, they automatically get placed in restrictive housing–and are treated as ‘maximum’ security detainees,” Smith wrote. “That arbitrary branding cannot pass constitutional muster, particularly without any prior process provided.”

Senior Judge Royce Lamberth found that he had no jurisdiction to second-guess jailhouse authorities, adding that he would not intervene if he did.

“Here, the defendant has not established that the Department of Corrections treated her differently from other inmates held for similar offenses,” Lamberth said. “Nor has she established that the Department of Corrections acted irrationally, especially given the ‘wide ranging deference’ the Court must give to jailers’ ‘policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.'”

Eisenhart claims that her son has received lighter treatment, being allowed to regularly interact with other incarcerated people and is not shackled at all times.

This argument also did not persuade Judge Lamberth, who noted in a footnote that the record otherwise shows everyone charged with the Jan. 6th siege have been treated the same way.

“The defendant argues that she is entitled to an individualized assessment of her placement,” the judge wrote in a footnote. “To the contrary, she has no such right; the Court will only review detainee placements if they are so arbitrary as to be irrational.”

Difference between Eisenhart and Munchel’s detention aside, the judge found no gender discrimination in her pre-trial lockup.

“She does not explain how similarly situated male detainees-other than her son-or female detainees have been treated,” Lamberth wrote in his five-page ruling. “Nor does the record contain evidence to show discrimination or irrationality.”

Court papers quote Eisenhart claiming she and her son went the Capitol as “observers,” but she also said: “This country was founded on revolution… I’d rather die a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression. I’d rather die and would rather fight.”

Smith, Eisenhart’s attorney, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the decision.

[Image via FBI]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."