WASHINGTON — Ray Epps, a Jan. 6 participant whose removal from the FBI’s Capitol Violence webpage sparked conspiracy theories that he was a federal informant, was charged in connection with the Capitol attack on Tuesday.
Epps is charged with one misdemeanor count, disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds. He was charged by information, suggesting that he plans to enter a plea deal. Not long after he was charged, a virtual plea agreement hearing was set for Wednesday, Sept. 20 before Chief Judge James Boasberg.
The criminal information charges that Epps “did knowingly, and with intent to impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business and official functions, engage in disorderly and disruptive conduct in and within such proximity to, a restricted building and grounds—that is, any posted, cordoned-off, and otherwise restricted area within the United States Capitol and its grounds, where the Vice President was and would be temporarily visiting—when and so that such conduct did in fact impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business and official functions, and attempted and conspired to do so.”
Most of the thousands who unlawfully gathered on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol have not been charged unless they engaged in some sort of aggravating conduct, like attacking police or destroying property. Video shows that Epps attempted to deescalate tensions between the police and rioters, though he’s also shown with his hands on a giant Trump sign the rioters jammed into the police line. A federal judge acquitted another Jan. 6 participant who had his hand on that same sign, saying that his intent was unclear.
Epps is not charged with entering the Capitol; he is only known to have been on the grounds on Jan. 6. NBC News reached out to lawyers representing Epps, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with the Jan. 6 committee last year, Epps said that he’d gone to Washington, D.C., in January 2021 as a supporter of former President Donald Trump, but that the conspiracy theories 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 up my record. I don’t break the law.”
Epps filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News and former host Tucker Carlson for spreading the conspiracy theories suggesting that Epps was some sort of agent of the federal government.
Representatives for Fox News and for Carlson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The unsupported notion that Epps was some sort of government agent who was inciting the mob to storm the Capitol has become widely accepted in right-wing circles, and even members of Congress have raised the Epps case during congressional hearings. Dominic Pezzola, a member of the Proud Boys who was sentenced to 10 years for his actions on Jan. 6, even invoked Epps’ name at trial.