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Former Marine charged for participation in Capitol riot

Ray Epps filed a defamation suit against Fox News in July for spreading the conspiracy theory that has led to death threats and forced him and his wife to move.

WASHINGTON (CN) — An Arizona man at the center of a conservative conspiracy theory surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was charged for his participation in the riot on Tuesday.

Ray Epps, a former Marine and leader of the Arizona chapter of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, was charged with one misdemeanor count for disorderly conduct in a restricted area

Epps is expected to enter a guilty plea at hearing scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m. before U.S. Chief Judge James Boasberg. The charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. 

The 62-year-old former Marine was captured on video at the Capitol, wearing camouflage and a red Trump 2020 hat, at the front of a line of rioters pushing against officers at the Peace Circle — between the Capitol and the National Mall — one of the initial clashes before the crowd made it to the steps of the building. 

He was not a part of the Oath Keepers during Jan. 6, having left a few years prior, saying during a January 2022 interview before the Jan. 6 House Committee that they had become “too radical” for him. 

The founder of the group, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted along with some of his lieutenants of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 18 years in prison this past May.

In July 2023, Epps filed a defamation suit against Fox News over former host Tucker Carlson’s efforts to spread a false narrative that he was a government agent who whipped up trouble that would be blamed on Trump supporters, making him an easy target for conservatives hesitant to place the blame on former President Donald Trump.

“In the aftermath of the events of Jan. 6th, Fox News searched for a scapegoat to blame other than Donald Trump or the Republican Party,” Epps claims in the suit. “Eventually, they turned on one of their own.”

Carlson was not named as a defendant in the suit, as Epps claims that Fox should be held liable for broadcasting the since-fired host’s “defamatory falsehoods.” 

The suit is currently pending in federal court in Delaware. 

Lawmakers in Congress began repeating the claims, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, publicly speculating about Epps' supposed ties to the FBI. 

Trump himself helped promote the conspiracy theory, reposting on his Truth Social site claims that Epps' wife Robyn worked for a division of Dominion Voting named Dominion Enterprises. The companies have since clarified they are not associated with each other. 

The widespread theory led to a deluge of death threats against the couple, forcing them to sell their home in Mesa, Arizona. During an April interview Epps gave with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he described himself as being “on the run” and stated he and his wife were living in a recreational vehicle in the Rocky Mountains. 

One such threat read, “Epps, sleep with one eye open.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray pushed back against the conspiracy at a July appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, the same day Epps filed his defamation suit against Fox News, where he denied any knowledge of Epps being a “secret government agent.” 

Epps joins the approximately 1,146 people who have been charged by the Justice Department in the 32 months since the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Approximately 657 people have opted to plead guilty to their charges, about 459 of whom have pleaded to misdemeanors.

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Categories / Criminal, National, Politics

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