Federal prosecutors filed a criminal charge Tuesday against a Utah man who protested at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and later became the focus of conspiracy theories — some amplified by former President Donald Trump and his allies — accusing him of being an FBI informant.
A former Oath Keepers’ member from Arizona, Ray Epps, was charged in U.S. District Court in Washington with one misdemeanor count of disruptive or disorderly conduct in a restricted area.
Epps is expected to offer a guilty plea to the charge Wednesday as part of a deal with prosecutors, according to an entry in the court’s docket.
Epps can be seen in video from Jan. 5 egging on the crowd and calling on ralliers to “go into the Capitol,” although he quickly added it should be done “peacefully.” He appeared at the Capitol the next day and was at the front of the mob that first breached the barricades. He is seen on video briefly speaking with Ryan Samsel — a rioter who was among the first who pushed through the police lines — shortly before Samsel rushed forward. He has claimed to be seeking to calm Samsel.
Epps has claimed in interviews that he never entered the Capitol building, and no evidence has emerged to indicate he did. That puts Epps in a small group of Jan. 6 defendants to face criminal charges without allegations they entered the Capitol or joined in violence.
The charge against Epps carries a maximum punishment of a year in prison.
Epps was included in photos the FBI released soon after the Capitol riot of individuals they were seeking information about as part of the sprawling investigation.
However, the images of Epps were quickly removed from the FBI’s website and he did not face any charges in the 32 months since the melee, leading other Jan. 6 defendants, conservative media outlets and even Trump to speculate publicly that Epps was an FBI plant intent on triggering a riot and part of a so-called false flag operation.
For his part, Epps vehemently denied that he acted that day on behalf of the FBI, and he testified to the Jan. 6 committee that he had no relationship with the FBI or federal agencies. Other videos show him standing alongside Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl as Rehl appears to deploy a chemical spray at officers. Rehl was convicted by a jury earlier this year of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In July 2023, Epps filed a libel suit against Fox News, complaining that he was being falsely pilloried in connection with the episode, even though he was a Trump supporter and loyal viewer of the network. He said in the suit he was likely to face a criminal charge, which he blamed in part on pressure generated by attention spurred by the conspiracy theories aired on Fox.
Fox has denied liability and moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which is pending in federal court in Delaware.
Some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, publicly speculated about Epps’ ties to the FBI and fueled conspiracy theories about the riot.
Trump himself also fed the theories, using his Truth Social account to spread baseless claims about Epps’ wife.
Epps said he received harassing messages and death threats as a result of the publicity.
Prosecutors faced so many questions and demands for information about Epps from other Jan. 6 defendants that last year they prepared a disclosure about him to share with alleged rioters whose attorneys were pressing for such records.
More than 1,100 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, with prosecutors continuing to file several cases each week.
Lawyers for Epps did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday seeking comment on the new charge.