Ever since the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in 2021, suspicions have been raised about an Arizona man named Ray Epps who was caught on video both that day and the night before urging other protesters to storm the Capitol building, yet faced no criminal charges for his actions.
That changed on Tuesday when, more than two-and-a-half-years later, Epps was finally charged with a crime in relation to the unrest at the Capitol building that temporarily delayed the congressional certification of the 2020 election, Breitbart reported.
The charge is unlikely to completely end the speculation about Epps, however, as it is a single minor misdemeanor that, in relation to the multiple charges faced by hundreds of other Jan. 6 protesters and rioters, doesn't appear to fully address what he was caught on video doing.
On Tuesday, a court filing revealed that Epps had been charged by U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew Graves with one count of violating 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1752(a)(2), which deals with "Disorderly or Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds."
That statute makes it a crime to "knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions."
According to the single-paragraph filing, Epps "did knowingly, and with intent to impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business
and official functions, engage in disorderly and disruptive conduct in and within such proximity to, a restricted building and grounds -- that is, any posted, cordoned-off, and otherwise restricted area within the United States Capitol and its grounds, where the Vice President was and would be
temporarily visiting -- when and so that such conduct did in fact impede and disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business and official functions, and attempted and conspired to do so."
Given that there are no allegations by the government that Epps either carried or used a weapon nor caused any bodily harm to others, the charge is a misdemeanor that, per the statute, is punishable by an unspecified fine and less than one year in prison.
According to Politico, which cited a related entry on the court docket, Epps was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to that solitary misdemeanor charge as part of a deal reached with prosecutors.
The outlet noted that Epps, a retired U.S. Marine and former member of the Oath Keepers organization, was caught on video on both Jan. 5 and 6 urging other pro-Trump protesters to "go into the Capitol."
He was also seen in other videos during the riot standing next to and even speaking closely with other individuals -- who have since been charged and convicted of felony crimes -- who then almost immediately launched attacks against the police barricades and the officers themselves.
In light of the prior lack of charges in spite of the seemingly apparent and ample evidence of Epps inciting others to commit crimes at the Capitol, speculative theories quickly took hold that Epps was some sort of federal agent or asset planted in the crowd as a troublemaker -- an allegation that Epps has strenuously denied.
Those theories were further fueled by the fact that Epps had initially been highlighted by the FBI as a wanted subject in the immediate aftermath of the riot only for his name and image to then be quickly removed from the FBI's wanted list.
Meanwhile, in addition to his fervent denials of being a federal plant at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Epps filed a lawsuit against Fox News earlier this year that specifically named former host Tucker Carlson, as well as other hosts like Laura Ingraham and Will Cain, for allegedly making him a "scapegoat" and libeling him with false accusations in their coverage of his unique and previously uncharged situation.
Fox News has moved to have the lawsuit dismissed while denying that its hosts defamed or libeled him, and Politico noted that neither Epps nor his attorneys could be reached for comment about this latest development in the saga.