An Arizona man who continues to be accused in conservative circles of working as a government agent to spark the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, including in a House hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday, pleaded guilty later in the day to one count of disorderly conduct on restricted grounds.

Ray Epps, 62, has vigorously denied any links to the government, and Garland said in the House Judiciary Committee hearing that “the FBI has said he was not an employee or informant of the FBI.” Prosecutors made a similar statement during Epps’s plea hearing. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., was loudly skeptical.

“Yesterday you indicted him,” Massie said, “isn’t that a wonderful coincidence? On a misdemeanor. . . . You’ve got the guy on video who’s saying ‘Go into the Capitol.’ He’s directing people to the Capitol before the speech ends. He’s at the site of the first breach. You’ve got all the goods on him, 10 videos, and it’s an indictment for a misdemeanor? The American public isn’t buying it.”

Epps was captured on video on Jan. 5, 2021, urging Trump supporters gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza to enter the Capitol the next day, which immediately raised suspicions as listeners chanted “Fed! Fed!” On Jan. 6, Epps was recorded at the Peace Circle, where members of the Proud Boys and others overran the police barricade. Epps can be seen on video speaking to defendant Ryan Samsel at the circle, but Epps and Samsel have both said Epps told Samsel not to attack the police. Samsel is seen pushing a fence backward, knocking down a Capitol Police officer, and enabling the crowd to surge toward the Capitol.

Epps could not be seen fighting with police but did run with the mob toward the Capitol. According to the statement of offense filed Wednesday, Epps joined with the crowd at the next police line on the West Terrace and helped push a 10-foot tall Trump sign toward the officers. Others ultimately pushed it into the police line. “The sign’s size and impact broke and scattered the police line,” the statement said. Officers managed to wrest the sign away from the rioters, but it was so heavy it took 15 officers to carry it away, prosecutors said.

Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg noted Wednesday that the statement of offense also referred to “at least five attempts” by Epps to de-escalate tensions between rioters and police at the front lines. Epps told “60 Minutes” that when he saw the chaos there, he attempted to stop the rioters from attacking police, and some video supported his version. He left the Capitol before 3 p.m. and did not enter the building, the video appears to show.


In July, Epps sued Fox News for defamation for repeatedly calling him a government agent. Fox has responded that it was within its rights to raise questions about Epps’s role on Jan. 6.

Epps was allowed to appear Wednesday for his plea hearing by video conference from an undisclosed location, and when a pretrial services officer started to discuss where Epps would have to report for supervision, his lawyer Edward J. Ungvarsky jumped in and made sure it wasn’t revealed.

“This event is from January 2021,” Ungvarsky reminded Boasberg. “Mr. Epps contacted the FBI two days later. Mr. Epps met with the FBI in March. All of the facts were known to the government since then.” Ungvarsky said that Epps “had to leave his home, leave his home state, due to harassment by certain people,” an apparent reference to threats Epps has said he received for being accused of being a government agent.

The government has not explained why it waited until 32 months after Jan. 6 to charge Epps, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington declined to comment Wednesday. The statement of offense confirmed that Epps called the FBI on Jan. 8 after seeing his picture on a wanted poster, and provided a full interview on March 3, 2021.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon asked that a statement be added to the record. “Mr. Epps on Jan. 6,” Gordon said, “was not before, during, or after a confidential source or undercover agent for the government, the FBI, DHS, or any law enforcement.”

Epps, who will be allowed to be sentenced remotely, faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail on the misdemeanor. Most defendants sentenced on the charge of disorderly conduct on Jan. 6 have received sentences of 30 to 90 days in jail, with some receiving home detention and some probation. The average misdemeanor sentence for Jan. 6 defendants, for those given jail time, has been about 55 days, according to a Washington Post database.

A standard presentencing condition of release is that a defendant must relinquish their firearms. Epps asked for a side conference with his lawyer, and Ungvarsky then returned to ask that Epps be allowed to keep his guns.

Boasberg said he was aware of Epps’s situation, but that he has previously denied those charged with misdemeanors, even those sentenced to probation, the ability to maintain firearms. He told Ungvarsky to file a motion and he would consider it in Epps’s situation.

After the hearing, Ungvarsky said that Epps “exhorted other supporters of President Trump to be peaceful on January 6 at the Capitol, and outside he repeatedly acted in support of officers to try to de-escalate actions. He left without entering the building. Defamatory lies have ruined his and his family’s life. Today was a step in putting his life back together.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: