Ray Epps, a former U.S. marine who became the centre of a Jan. 6, 2021, conspiracy theory, has been charged with a misdemeanor offence in connection with the U.S. Capitol riot and is expected to plead guilty, according to court papers filed Tuesday.
Epps, who claimed in a lawsuit filed this year that Fox News Channel made him a scapegoat for the Capitol riot, is charged with disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds, court records show.
His attorney, Edward J. Ungvarsky, said in an email that the case was filed with an anticipation that Epps would plead guilty to the charge. The judge has scheduled a plea agreement hearing for Wednesday.
Epps, a one-time supporter of Donald Trump who has said he went to Washington to protest the 2020 election, was falsely accused by Fox of being a government agent who was whipping up trouble that would be blamed on Trump supporters, his lawsuit claims.
Although the lawsuit mentions Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Will Cain, since-fired former Fox host Tucker Carlson is cited as the leader in promoting the theory. Epps was featured in more than two dozen segments on Carlson’s prime-time show, the lawsuit said.
Overall, more than 1,100 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol attack. More than 600 of them have been sentenced, with over half of that total receiving terms that included imprisonment.
Messages seeking comment about the disorderly conduct charge were sent Tuesday to Fox News and a lawyer for Carlson.
Epps’s lawsuit against Fox News says the U.S. Justice Department told him in May that he faces criminal charges for his actions on Jan. 6, and he blames that on “the relentless attacks by Fox and Mr. Carlson and the resulting political pressure.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee in July, denied having any knowledge of Epps being a “secret government agent.”
“I will say this notion that somehow the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and agents is ludicrous,” Wray told lawmakers.
In an interview that aired earlier this year with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Epps, of Mesa, Ariz., described being “on the run,” after death threats forced him and his wife to sell their home. At the time of the interview, they were living in a recreational vehicle in the Rocky Mountains.
“I had to do the necessary things to keep my family safe,” Epps said.
Epps was a previously member of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group, serving as an Arizona chapter leader before parting ways with the anti-government group a few years before the Jan. 6 attack, he said. He said the Oath Keepers were “too radical” for him.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and other members were convicted of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack.
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