A Tennessee man and his mother were sentenced to prison on Friday for seeking to intimidate lawmakers by marching with matching tactical vests and carrying zip tie-style handcuffs during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors said.
The man, Eric Munchel, 32, of Nashville, who became known on social media as “Zip Tie Guy,” was sentenced to nearly five years in prison, the Justice Department said. His mother, Lisa Marie Eisenhart, 59, of Woodstock, Ga., was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, the department said.
They were fined $2,000 each, and their prison terms will be followed by two-and-a-half years of supervised release.
The two were found guilty in April of conspiracy to commit obstruction, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, according to court documents.
Mr. Munchel was also found guilty of two other felonies related to carrying weapons on Capitol grounds.
Mr. Munchel, wearing paramilitary gear, traveled with his mother to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, and left the Grand Hyatt that afternoon, according to court documents.
Ms. Eisenhart, wearing a flannel shirt underneath her tactical vest and a red “Keep America Great Again” beanie, and her son had “prepared for violence on Jan. 6 and projected their willingness to engage in it” by wearing tactical vests, prosecutors said.
Their lawyers did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on Friday evening, but they defended their clients in court filings as Americans who had found themselves caught up in the events of that day and had no ill intent.
Mr. Munchel’s lawyer, Joseph Allen, wrote in a sentencing memo that Mr. Munchel “regrets his unlawful conduct and has accepted responsibility for it, actions which demonstrate his character.”
Ms. Eisenhart’s lawyer, Gregory Smith, said in a court filing that tactical gear “can be worn for defensive or offensive reasons,” and that his client had been “law-abiding, respectful and compliant” ever since she turned herself in to the F.B.I. weeks after Jan. 6, 2021.
As Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced them, Ms. Eisenhart locked arms with her son while both stood together at a podium, The Associated Press reported.
More than 1,100 people from nearly all 50 states have been arrested in connection with crimes related to the Capitol riot, according to the Justice Department.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Munchel and Ms. Eisenhart “saw other rioters fighting with police and encouraged them to do so,” the Justice Department said.
They pushed past police lines, entered the Capitol building and stole zip tie handcuffs from the U.S. Capitol Police, using them to implicitly threaten members of Congress once they reached the Senate chamber, prosecutors argued.
They then “openly declared to a reporter that their intent in storming and entering the Capitol was to intimidate Congress,” court records state.
Mr. Munchel also carried a Taser and “other weapons” into the Capitol building, according to court records, which did not elaborate on the weapons.
Court records provide some insight into the mother-son dynamic that played out that day, with both egging each other on as they encouraged other rioters to also advance and gain ground.
When they joined other rioters outside the Capitol building, Mr. Munchel had affixed to his chest a phone to record his actions and those of his mother, who at one point, court records state, was heard yelling, “Push, push!” and “Fight ‘em!”
At one point during the riot, Ms. Eisenhart offered a word of advice to her son as they made their way to the Capitol.
“We’re going straight to federal prison if we go in there with weapons,” she told Mr. Munchel, according to court records.
“Yeah,” he replied. “That’s why I’m not going in there.”
They shed some of their weapons before entering the Capitol, prosecutors said.
When officers who were overwhelmed by rioters began to retreat, Ms. Eisenhart told her son, “Let’s go,” and they resumed their advance.
At another point, they talked about the presence of pepper spray in the air, and people around them could be heard coughing on Mr. Munchel’s recording.
He told his mother to cover her face with a bandanna because “it’s going to get spicy.”
Prosecutors said that “the illegality and impact of their actions was not lost on” Mr. Munchel or Ms. Eisenhart, who was heard saying in the Senate Gallery that she was going to get arrested “right this minute.”
Before leaving, Mr. Munchel told his mother to dispose of the zip ties, prosecutors said. They spent about 12 minutes inside the Capitol.
He was arrested on Jan. 10, 2021.
On Jan. 7, 2021, Mr. Munchel and his mother both gave interviews to The London Times.
“What is America for?” Ms. Eisenhart told the paper. “I’d rather die as a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression. I’d rather die and would rather fight.”