Oath Keepers militia figure ordered held in U.S. Capitol riot, others freed

Mark Hosenball
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in Washington

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday ordered the detention of a Florida man described as a leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group pending trial on charges stemming from the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack but let two other defendants go free despite a prosecution request that they also be held.

In addition, a federal appeals court ordered a review of the pretrial detention of two others charged in the riot in another setback for prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ordered that Kelly Meggs, described by prosecutors as a self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, to be detained. He faces conspiracy and other charges arising from the riot.

The judge during a hearing said there was substantial evidence that Meggs had intended to engage in violence on Jan. 6 and that he had communicated with other right-wing militants including members of the Proud Boys group.

But Mehta ordered the release of the defendant's wife Connie Meggs and an Ohio man, Donovan Crowl, also described as having ties to the Oath Keepers, saying that strict release conditions were sufficient to protect public safety. They too face conspiracy and other charges.

Separately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered that a lower court reconsider its pretrial detention of Lisa Eisenhart and Eric Munchel, a mother and son from Tennessee who face conspiracy and other charges.

In both cases, the Justice Department had argued that the defendants posed a danger to the public as they await trial.

The attack was carried out by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters, who rampaged through the Capitol, interrupted the formal congressional certification of now-President Joe Biden's election victory and sent lawmakers into hiding for their own safety. Five people died including a police officer.

Kelly Meggs, Connie Meggs and Crowl joined groups of people dressed in military-style gear such as helmets, goggles and protective vests before entering the Capitol, according to authorities. Eisenhart and Munchel entered the Senate chamber wearing military-style fatigues, with Munchel carrying multiple pairs of plastic handcuffs, according to authorities.

More than 400 people have been charged with taking part in the violence. Prosecutors have acknowledged that some of the evidence they had earlier presented concerning people accused of taking part was not as damning as they initially indicated.

(Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)