WASHINGTON — A man who became the target of far-right conspiracy theories after his image was added and then removed from the FBI's Capitol Violence website has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.
Ray Epps pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds at a hearing before U.S. District Chief Judge James Boasberg in Washington. Epps appeared virtually, via Zoom.
Epps became the target of dozens of segments by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Epps filed a defamation suit against the network in July.
The conspiracy theory posited that a man pictured on the FBI's website was a government agent and that Jan. 6 was a "false flag" event encouraged by the FBI. Even now, more than two-and-a-half years after the Capitol attack, more than 100 people whose photos are featured on the FBI's website have been identified but not yet arrested.
Epps’ statement of offense included multiple photos going through his actions on Jan. 6.
Epps, according to the FBI, was not and never has been an asset of the bureau. In an interview with the Jan. 6 committee last year, Epps said the "crazy" conspiracy theories had torn apart his life.
Like thousands of others, Epps was on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Video of Epps from the night of Jan. 5 shows him saying that Trump supporters should go inside the Capitol, and video on Jan. 6 shows him urging Trump supporters to go to the Capitol. Later, once a riot breaks out, video shows Epps trying to calm tensions between police and protesters. Most of the charged Jan. 6 defendants either entered the Capitol itself or committed violence or destruction outside, placing Epps in a small category of Jan. 6 participants charged despite never entering the building or engaging in destructive or assaultive conduct.
The maximum sentence for the charge Epps faces is one year in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine. The sentencing guideline range is between zero and six months of incarceration, according to his plea agreement. Epps will be sentenced by Judge Boasberg on December 20 at 10a. Epps and his attorney have waived their in-person appearance at that hearing.
Michael Teter, Ray Epps’s lead counsel in his civil case against Fox News, said in a statement that his client has "cooperated and has taken responsibility for his actions," saying that his plea agreement with DOJ is "powerful evidence of the absurdity of Fox News’s and Tucker Carlson’s lies that sought to turn Ray into a scapegoat for January 6."
"Had Ray been charged earlier, Fox News would have called him a hero and political prisoner," Teter continued. "Instead, Fox News spread falsehoods about Ray that have cost him his livelihood and safety. And to this day, Fox News has not retracted the lies or even reported on Ray’s prosecution."
Last month, the FBI arrested a St. Louis man named Rally Runner who — Tucker Carlson viewers were told in late 2021 — was "clearly a law enforcement officer" and an "agent provocateur" who only dressed up as a Trump supporter to make other Trump supporters look bad. In reality, Runner was a huge fan of both Trump and Carlson.