Arizona man central to Jan. 6 conspiracy theories charged in connection with riot

An Arizona man at the center of conspiracy theories over how the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol ensued was charged Tuesday in connection with the riot.

Ray Epps, 62, faces one count of disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds. He will be arraigned Wednesday afternoon, where a plea agreement with government prosecutors is expected to be discussed, according to court filings.

Epps has said he believed the 2020 election was stolen and traveled to Washington days before the Capitol attack to protest.

Conspiracy theories have since swirled around the Arizona man, most of them alleging he was a federal agent who instigated violence that day to tarnish those involved. The theories largely originated from a video from the night of Jan. 5, 2021, in which Epps is seen talking with another individual about heading to the Capitol the next day.

“I don’t even want to say it because I will probably be arrested: Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol,” Epps says in the video.

In other videos from Jan. 6, Epps can be seen whispering into the ear of Ryan Samsel, who is accused of being the first rioter to breach police barricades.

The claims were quickly latched onto and amplified by right-wing media. Epps has since sued Fox News for allegedly spreading “destructive conspiracy theories” about him and his actions on Jan. 6.

Epps says in his lawsuit against Fox News that the Justice Department told him in May he would face criminal charges, an outcome he claimed was caused by “the relentless attacks by Fox and Mr. Carlson and the resulting political pressure.”

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

During a July hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray refuted claims the FBI played any role in instigating the riot.

“This notion that somehow the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources and agents is ludicrous and is a disservice to our brave, hardworking, dedicated men and women,” Wray said.

Some 1,100 rioters have been charged in connection with the Capitol attack.

Dominick Mastrangelo contributed.

This story was updated at 1:08 p.m.

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