Ray Epps, a former Marine who became the focus of conspiracy theories that alleged he was an FBI informant, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot as part of a deal with government prosecutors.
Epps, 62, admitted to engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds after storming the Capitol, falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. He appeared before the court over Zoom, calling in from home with his wife while wearing a black suit and gray tie.
As part of Epps’s plea agreement, the government agreed not to prosecute him further in connection with the Capitol attack. Epps agreed for his social media to be reviewed by law enforcement and to pay $500 in restitution.
He faces up to one year in prison, though the sentencing guidelines for his offense range from zero to six months. His sentencing is scheduled to take place virtually Dec. 20.
Since the Capitol attack, Epps has become the focus of conspiracy theories that allege he was a federal agent who instigated violence that day to tarnish other rioters.
During the hearing Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon read a statement into the record due to the “unusual nature of the case” that affirmed Epps “was not before, during or after” the Capitol riot “a confidential source or an undercover agent for the government, the FBI, DHS or any law enforcement.”
The theories largely originated from a Jan. 5, 2021, video where Epps is seen talking about heading to the Capitol the next day and images showing the Arizona man whispering in the ear of another rioter who is accused of being the first to breach police barricades. Those actions are part of his statement of offense, which Chief Judge James Boasberg, who is overseeing the case, summarized for the record. The government requested that the document be placed into the public record.
The statement of offense, as detailed by the judge, also says that the government has a record of five attempts Epps made to de-escalate the crowd at the Capitol.
Just hours before Epps entered his plea, the timing of his indictment was harshly questioned by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Massie asked Attorney General Merrick Garland whether federal agents instigated the mob on Jan. 6, a question he said he had asked before to no avail.
“You had two years to find out, and the day — by the way, that’s in reference to Ray Epps, and yesterday you indicted him. Isn’t that a wonderful coincidence? On a misdemeanor? Meanwhile, you’re sending grandmas to prison,” Massie said.
There is no evidence Epps is a federal agent nor that other federal agents played a role in fomenting the Capitol attack more than two years ago. FBI Director Christopher Wray told the same committee last month it’s “ludicrous” to suggest the agency or its assets helped orchestrate the riot.
Epps gained enough prominence to land on “60 Minutes” earlier this year, where in an interview he said he was “on the run” after threats against him and his wife forced them to sell their home.
On Wednesday, Epps’s attorney Ed Ungvarsky asked the court to impose minimal pretrial conditions, citing the harassment Epps has received since the riot. He also said the facts in Epps’s statement of offense were “known by the government in 2021” despite no charges being filed.
Boasberg, the judge, waived the typical pretrial condition of travel restriction, meaning Epps may travel freely within the U.S. without informing the court. He will still surrender his passport, Ungvarsky said.
Epps sued Fox News in July for allegedly spreading claims about him and his actions on Jan. 6 — accusations he called “destructive conspiracy theories.” He suggested that his then-pending criminal charge was a byproduct of “the relentless attacks by Fox and Mr. [Tucker] Carlson and the resulting political pressure.”
Michael Teter, an attorney in Epps’s case against Fox News, said Wednesday that “from the very moment” Epps learned the FBI sought to identify him, he cooperated and took responsibility for his actions.
“Today’s hearing and the plea agreement reached with the Department of Justice is further proof of that,” Teter said in a statement after the arraignment. “It is also 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.”
Some 1,100 rioters have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack.
Rebecca Beitch contributed.
Updated at 4:21 p.m.