Ray Epps, Target of Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theory, Charged in Capitol Attack - The World News

Ray Epps, Target of Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theory, Charged in Capitol Attack

Ray Epps, the man at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory that the federal government instigated the events of Jan. 6, 2021, was charged on Tuesday with a single count of disorderly conduct for his role in the attack on the Capitol.

In a bare-bones charging document filed in Federal District Court in Washington, prosecutors accused Mr. Epps of disrupting the orderly conduct of government business by entering a restricted area on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. Mr. Epps’s lawyer, Edward J. Ungvarsky, said the case had been brought in “anticipation of entry of a guilty plea.”

The saga of Mr. Epps, a former Marine and wedding venue owner who voted twice for Donald J. Trump, is one of the stranger stories to have emerged from the Capitol attack. In the months after the riot, he found himself the target of baseless allegations that he was a secret agent of the federal government who had helped to foment the violence at the Capitol as a way to discredit Mr. Trump and his supporters.

The conspiracy theory was widely promoted by the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and was later echoed by several prominent Republican politicians. Mr. Epps, who sold his home and business in Arizona and has since gone into hiding with his wife in a trailer park in Utah, sued Fox News in July, accusing the network of defamation.

From the start, the attacks on Mr. Epps were largely based on the fact that he was never charged with any crimes, even though he was captured on video on the night before the riot encouraging people to go into the Capitol. He was also seen on Jan. 6 pointing others toward the building and then entering a restricted area of the Capitol grounds.

Those who promoted the conspiracy theory made the unfounded leap that because Mr. Epps had avoided prosecution for more than two years, he had to have been a federal asset under the protection of the government. The charges filed on Tuesday by prosecutors in Washington undercut that assertion.

With the charges, Mr. Epps became one of only a handful of people in the mob who never entered the Capitol to have been prosecuted. While videos from Jan. 6 clearly depict him as being in the first wave of rioters to move past a police barricade outside the building, footage from later in the day shows him attempt to calm the crowd around him and de-escalate tensions with the police.

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