Man at Center of Conspiracy Theory Pleads Guilty

Merrick Garland had been asked about Ray Epps in a hearing earlier in the day
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2023 6:39 PM CDT
Updated Sep 20, 2023 5:25 PM CDT
Ray Epps Charged With Capitol Riot Misdemeanor
Trump supporters rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
UPDATE Sep 20, 2023 5:25 PM CDT

The Arizona man named in right-wing conspiracy theories as a government agent who urged Capitol rioters on has pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct on restricted grounds. Ray Epps, who has received death threats, appeared in the DC court on video, per the Washington Post, and his lawyer cut off mention of where the defendant will report for supervision. Earlier in the day, Attorney General Merrick Garland repeated his assurance that Epps was not in the service of the FBI to a House committee. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie pressed Garland about the charge. "You've got all the goods on him, 10 videos, and it's an indictment for a misdemeanor?" Massie said. "The American public isn't buying it." Epps will be sentenced Dec. 20, per NBC News.

Sep 19, 2023 6:39 PM CDT

Ray Epps, a former Marine who became the center of a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory, has been charged with a misdemeanor offense in connection with the 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. Epps' attorney, Edward J. Ungvarsky, told the AP that 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 Trump lost to Joe Biden, 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. 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 January 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and agents is ludicrous," Wray told lawmakers.

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In an interview that aired earlier this year with CBS' 60 Minutes, Epps, of Mesa, Arizona, described being "on the run" after death threats forced him and his wife to sell their home. Although Epps' lawsuit mentions Fox's Laura Ingraham and Will Cain, 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. Epps' lawsuit against Fox says the Justice Department told him in May that he faces criminal charges for his actions on Jan. 6 and blames that on "the relentless attacks by Fox and Mr. Carlson and the resulting political pressure." (More Capitol riot stories.)

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