A popular MAGA conspiracy theory is being discredited as Ray Epps, a supporter of Donald Trump, is sentenced for his role in the 2021 Capitol riot. Prosecutors are recommending that Epps get six months in prison.
Guilty as charged
Epps admitted to joining the riot and pleaded guilty to one criminal charge in September. A Washington court filing reveals that federal prosecutors have since charged him with “disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.”
The conspiracy theory itself was that the events of Jan. 6 were a false flag and that Epps was a federal agent planted to encourage Trump supporters to riot and to make the MAGA party look bad.
Public figures added fuel to the fire. Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz openly promoted the conspiracy theory, stating that the alleged FBI informant was supposedly removed from the Capitol Violence Most Wanted list, though Epps had yet to be charged.
As a video of Epps encouraging people to go into the Capitol went viral, countless conspiracy theorists, members of Congress, and even Trump himself claimed that Epps was simply a tool to discredit the MAGA movement.
At an Arizona rally, the former president told crowds, “Exactly how many of those present at the Capitol on January 6th were FBI confidential informants, agents, or otherwise working directly or indirectly with an agency of the United States government?” He continued, referring to the video of Epps, “How about the one guy? ‘Go in, go in, get in there.’”
Epps, who was once president of the Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group, has denied ever working for a government agency. Evidence of this was released to the public by the January 6 Select Committee, who shared transcripts from a January 2022 interview with the accused.
Federal law enforcement officials have also repeatedly denied the conspiracy theory. In a letter to the judge of Epps’s case, Epps himself shared his overwhelming guilt and remorse for his involvement in the riot, also stating that conspiracy theories had forced his family into hiding, the Independent reported.
Epps has maintained that he never went inside the Capitol, but as evidenced by videos, was clearly a part of the overall attack. Prosecutors say that he participated in a “rugby scrum-like group effort” to get past law enforcement.
Though his actions carry a one-year sentence, prosecutors say that Epps’s case is unique in that he turned himself in, has fully cooperated with all investigations, has shown guilt and remorse, and was proven to have eventually tried to de-escalate the riot on the day.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told Newsweek, “A lot of folks obviously think he’s a [government] cooperator because he got charged so late. He’s clearly pleading. Whenever you’re charged with information…it’s very, very likely going to be a plea, especially since it’s taken so long to charge him because there’s some negotiation going on.”
Now that Epps is facing prison time, the conspiracy theories surrounding him will likely quiet down. Epps will soon be officially sentenced in Washington by James Boasberg, a US district judge.