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Ray Epps, target of January 6 conspiracy theory, charged in Capitol attack

Ray Epps, the man at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory that the federal government was behind the events of January 6, 2021, was charged Tuesday with a single count of disorderly conduct for his role in the attack on the Capitol.

In a simple charging document filed in federal district court in Washington, prosecutors accused Mr. Epps of disrupting the orderly conduct of government business by entering a restricted area on the Capitol grounds on January 6. Mr. Epps’ lawyer, Edward J. Ungvarsky, said the case was brought “in anticipation of a guilty plea.”

The saga of Mr. Epps, a former Navy and wedding venue owner who twice voted for Donald J. Trump, is one of the strangest stories to emerge from the attack on the Capitol. In the months following the riot, he found himself the target of baseless allegations that he was a secret federal government agent who helped foment violence at the Capitol in order to discredit Mr. Trump and his supporters .

The conspiracy theory was widely promoted by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and was later echoed by several prominent Republican politicians. Mr. Epps, who sold his home and business in Arizona and has since been hiding with his wife in a Utah trailer park, sued Fox News in July, accusing the network of defamation.

From the start, attacks on Mr. Epps were based largely on the fact that he had never been charged with any crime, even though he was filmed the night before the riot encouraging the riots. people to enter the Capitol. He was also seen on Jan. 6 pointing others toward the building and then entering a restricted area of ​​the Capitol grounds.

Those who promoted the conspiracy theory made the unfounded leap that because Mr. Epps had avoided prosecution for more than two years, he must be a federal asset under the government’s protection. The charges filed Tuesday by Washington prosecutors contradict that assertion.

With these charges, Mr. Epps became one of the few members of the mob who never entered the Capitol to have been prosecuted. While videos from January 6 clearly show him as part of the first wave of rioters to break through a police barricade outside the building, footage taken later in the day shows him trying to calm the crowd. crowd around him and ease tensions with the police. .