WASHINGTON — Ray Epps, a Jan. 6 participant whose takedown of the FBI webpage on the Capitol violence sparked conspiracy theories that he was a federal informant, was charged in connection with the Capitol attack Tuesday .
Epps is charged with one misdemeanor count of disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds. He was charged based on information suggesting he was considering a plea deal. Shortly after his indictment, a virtual plea agreement hearing was set for Wednesday, September 20 before Chief Judge James Boasberg.
The criminal charges that Epps “knowingly and with intent to prevent and disrupt the orderly conduct of governmental business and official functions, engaged in disorderly and disruptive conduct in and near “a restricted building and grounds, meaning any posted, cordoned off, and otherwise restricted area within the United States Capitol and its grounds where the Vice President was located and would temporarily visit – when and in such a manner that such conduct actually obstructed and disrupted the orderly conduct of governmental affairs and official functions, and attempted and conspired to do so.
Most of the thousands of people who illegally gathered on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol have not been charged unless they engaged in aggravating conduct, such as attacking police or destroying property. The video shows Epps trying to defuse tensions between police and rioters, although he is also shown with his hands on a giant Trump sign as the rioters were pinned in the police line. A federal judge acquitted another Jan. 6 participant who had his hand on that same sign, saying his intent was unclear.
Epps is not accused of entering the Capitol; we know that he only went there on January 6. NBC News contacted attorneys representing Epps, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with the committee on January 6 of last year, Epps said he had traveled to Washington, D.C., in January 2021 as a supporter of former President Donald Trump, but that theories of plot that followed had torn his life apart.
“I never intended to break the law,” Epps, a former Marine, told the committee. “It’s not in my DNA. I’ve never… I’m sure you’ve looked at my file. I’m not breaking the law.
Epps filed a defamation suit against Fox News and former host Tucker Carlson for spreading conspiracy theories suggesting Epps was some sort of agent of the federal government.
Representatives for Fox News and Carlson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The unsupported idea that Epps was some sort of government agent who incited the mob to storm the Capitol has become widely accepted in right-wing circles, and even members of Congress raised the Epps case during the congressional hearings. Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his actions on January 6, even invoked Epps’ name during the trial.