Ray Epps, in the red Trump hat, center, gestures to a line of law enforcement officers, as people gather on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Ray Epps, who was targeted by right-wing conspiracy theorists after he protested then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge related to his actions on the day of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Epps faced one count of knowingly engaging in “disorderly and disruptive conduct” with the “intent to impede and disrupt” the government’s efforts on Jan. 6, 2021, to confirm President Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Trump.
Epps did not enter the Capitol that day, but he was on restricted grounds outside the building during the riot, prosecutors noted.
He pleaded guilty during a brief hearing over Zoom before U.S. District Chief Judge James Boasberg in federal court in Washington, D.C.
A prosecutor in that hearing stated that “due to the unusual nature of this case,” he wanted to make clear that Epps was never a “confidential source” for any government agency, NBC News reported.
The terms of Epps’ plea agreement allow the government to access his social media accounts from around the time of the Capitol riot, NBC reported. He is also required to pay $500 in restitution.
Epps, a former member of the right-wing Oath Keepers group, had traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest the 2020 election results. But he has since has become the face of a false conspiracy theory that the FBI provoked the riot that erupted at the Capitol.
Epps fell under suspicion by others on the right after he was seen on video taken Jan. 5, 2021, showing him on the streets encouraging others to “go into the Capitol.”
Some high-profile conservatives amplified those suspicions, publicly questioning Epps’ actions and wondering why he had not yet been criminally charged in connection with the riot, as more than 1,100 other defendants have.
In July, Epps filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News and its former opinion host Tucker Carlson over their coverage of him.
Epps alleged he has been forced to flee his home and bombarded with harassment and death threats as a result of the “defamatory campaign” against him.
“From the very moment that Ray Epps learned the FBI sought to identify him, Ray cooperated and has taken responsibility for his actions,” said Michael Teter, Epps’ lawyer in his civil defamation case.
“Today’s hearing and the plea agreement reached with the Department of Justice is further proof of that. 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,” Teter said.
Epps will be sentenced by Boasberg on Dec. 20.
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