Ray Epps, a man at the centre of far-right conspiracy theories accusing him of working with federal authorities to instigate the January 6 attack, has been charged in connection with the riots at the US Capitol.
Mr Epps has been charged with one misdemeanour count of disorderly or disruptive conduct on restricted grounds, a charge facing dozens of people accused of joining the mob in the halls of Congress and around the Capitol on 6 January 2021.
A filing from federal prosecutors on 19 September is by information, suggesting that Mr Epps will enter a plea deal. An arraignment and plea agreement hearing is set for 20 September.
In interviews with the now-dissolved House select committee investigating the events surrounding the attack and efforts among Donald Trump’s supporters to overturn 2020 presidential election results, Mr Epps said that the conspiracy theories have upended his life.
“I never intended to break the law,” he told the committee. “It’s not in my DNA. … I’m sure you’ve looked up my record. I don’t break the law.”
On his now-former Tucker Carlson Tonight programme on Fox, Carlson claimed there is “no rational explanation” why this “mysterious figure” who “helped stage-manage the insurrection” had not yet been charged, among more than two dozen statements collected in the lawsuit, which notes that the claims were not isolated to Carlson’s prime-time program.
“Fox repeatedly published defamatory falsehoods about Epps, including by broadcasting and rebroadcasting defamatory statements by Tucker Carlson who devoted over two dozen segments to Epps and by republishing those falsehoods” across Fox platforms, according to the lawsuit.
Mr Epps – a Republican voter who supported Mr Trump – did not go inside the Capitol and did not previously face arrest or charges, until now, fuelling ongoing conspiracy theories that the now 66-year-old was working with law enforcement to entrap Trump supporters, part of a long-running belief among Republicans that federal authorities are using the levers of power to discriminate against them.
The former president himself platformed bogus claims about Mr Epps’ wife on his Truth Social account. “Is this really true?” he wrote in a post that linked to a completely false claim that she worked for Dominion Voting Systems, the voting machinge company subjected to a flood of bogus statements from Trump allies.
In sworn testimony to a House Judiciary Committee hearing this summer, FBI Director Christopher Wray shot down similar claims amplified by Carlson as well as members of a far-right gang, Republican officials and conspiracy theorists who have alleged that federal informants and agents provoked the mob.
“I will say this notion that somehow the violence at the Capitol on January 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,” Mr Wray told the committee.
A lawyer for Dominic Pezzola – a member of the neo-fascist Proud Boys who used a stolen police shield to bash through a window into the Capitol – claimed in court filings that at least 40 undercover agents were present. Earlier this year, when he testified in his own defense at trial, Pezzola repeatedly invoked the conspiracy theory, admitting that he did not have any evidence that Mr Epps was involved.
Pezzola was later convicted on a range of charges, including robbery and assaulting, resisting or impeding police, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.