Ray Epps, the person on the middle of a right-wing conspiracy principle that the federal authorities instigated the occasions of Jan. 6, 2021, was charged on Tuesday with a single rely of disorderly conduct for his function within the assault on the Capitol.
In a bare-bones charging doc filed in Federal District Courtroom in Washington, prosecutors accused Mr. Epps of disrupting the orderly conduct of presidency enterprise by getting into a restricted space on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. Mr. Epps’s lawyer, Edward J. Ungvarsky, mentioned the case had been introduced in “anticipation of entry of a responsible plea.”
The saga of Mr. Epps, a former Marine and wedding ceremony venue proprietor who voted twice for Donald J. Trump, is likely one of the stranger tales to have emerged from the Capitol assault. Within the months after the riot, he discovered himself the goal of baseless allegations that he was a undercover agent of the federal authorities who had helped to foment the violence on the Capitol as a option to discredit Mr. Trump and his supporters.
The conspiracy principle was broadly promoted by the previous Fox Information host Tucker Carlson and was later echoed by a number of outstanding Republican politicians. Mr. Epps, who bought his house and enterprise in Arizona and has since gone into hiding along with his spouse in a trailer park in Utah, sued Fox Information in July, accusing the community of defamation.
From the beginning, the assaults on Mr. Epps have been largely based mostly on the truth that he was by no means charged with any crimes, despite the fact that he was captured on video on the evening earlier than the riot encouraging individuals to enter the Capitol. He was additionally seen on Jan. 6 pointing others towards the constructing after which getting into a restricted space of the Capitol grounds.
Those that promoted the conspiracy principle made the unfounded leap that as a result of Mr. Epps had prevented prosecution for greater than two years, he needed to have been a federal asset below the safety of the federal government. The costs filed on Tuesday by prosecutors in Washington undercut that assertion.
With the fees, Mr. Epps turned one in every of solely a handful of individuals within the mob who by no means entered the Capitol to have been prosecuted. Whereas movies from Jan. 6 clearly depict him as being within the first wave of rioters to maneuver previous a police barricade exterior the constructing, footage from later within the day reveals him trying to calm the gang round him and de-escalate tensions with the police.
It stays unclear why the Justice Division determined to cost Mr. Epps now, greater than two and a half years after the Capitol assault. The charging doc used towards him, generally known as a felony info, was filed after he introduced his swimsuit towards Fox Information, guaranteeing his story would stay within the public eye for months, if not years. It additionally got here after he determined to combat again towards the conspiracy principle within the media, granting interviews to each The New York Occasions and 60 Minutes.
Nonetheless, Mr. Epps is hardly the one rioter to have waited years earlier than being charged. The Justice Division continues to file Jan. 6 circumstances virtually each day and will in the end deliver expenses towards a number of hundred extra defendants.
The unfounded accusations about Mr. Epps have been a few of the most persistent to have come from the Capitol assault, prompting the Home choose committee investigating Jan. 6 to interview him in January 2022. In the course of the interview, Mr. Epps informed investigators that other than serving within the Marine Corps, he had by no means labored for the federal government and that he was not working for any federal businesses on Jan. 6.
However even this testimony below oath didn’t cease the assaults on him, which unfold from Fox Information to public hearings in Congress. All of it had damaging penalties for Mr. Epps and his spouse, Robyn, who acquired dying threats and in the end bought their five-acre ranch and wedding ceremony enterprise in Arizona, transferring right into a 350-square-foot cell house at a distant trailer park within the Rocky Mountains.
Mr. Epps was additionally interviewed by the F.B.I. and was faraway from the bureau’s listing of suspects needed in reference to the Capitol assault in the summertime of 2021. “That ought to have been the top of the matter for Epps,” his lawyer wrote within the criticism towards Fox.
However as an alternative, the criticism mentioned, Mr. Carlson and Fox settled on Mr. Epps as a “villain” who may assist distract from the community’s personal “culpability for stoking the hearth that led to the occasions of Jan. 6.” Mr. Carlson, it continued, turned “fixated on Epps” and started selling the concept that Mr. Epps and the federal authorities instigated the Capitol assault.
In court docket papers, attorneys for Fox have sought to dismiss the defamation case, saying that the community enjoys broad protections below the First Modification and that Mr. Carlson left sufficient wiggle room in his statements about Mr. Epps to have prevented assembly the usual of precise malice crucial for defamation.
On Monday, Fox requested a listening to in Federal District Courtroom in Wilmington, Del., for oral arguments on its movement to dismiss the swimsuit.