The man at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory that claims a federal agent instigated the Jan. 6 attack could face up to six months in prison after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Federal prosecutors told a judge Tuesday that Ray Epps helped “inspire and rally a crowd” outside the U.S. Capitol, where a mob of Donald Trump supporters breached chambers of Congress and blocked the certification of his presidential election results. 2020.
In an attached letter to the judge, Epps described the “overwhelming and unbearable” waves of “guilt, remorse and humiliation” that followed after conspiracy theories were amplified on social media and Fox News forced his family into hiding.
“I take full responsibility for knowingly infringing on limited grounds and as a result of unlawfully engaging in disorderly conduct,” he wrote. “In doing so, I not only put my wife and family through a constant nightmare, but also left friends and hundreds of young people I taught and led with serious questions. I've let every one of them down as well as myself.”
Federal law enforcement officials have repeatedly dismissed conspiracy theories surrounding Epps, who is suing Fox News and Tucker Carlson for defamation after the former network host suggested he was a government agent who incited riots in an effort to entrap Mr. Trump's supporters.
Epps — who supported the former president in 2016 and 2020 and was a loyal Fox viewer at the time — says he has since learned “not to trust politicians, Fox News and some other media and social media, just to I have betrayed me and other American citizens with election lies.”
“When the lies were exposed, they hatched a conspiracy to shift the entire responsibility for the insurgency onto the FBI and me as I became the face of J6,” he wrote. “The responsibility for the riot is not with the FBI. It's to those who were on Capitol Hill and engaged in insurgent activities and to those who misled Americans like me into believing that the election was stolen.”
In his appeal for leniency, Epps said the resulting harassment had “torn our families apart, taken away our livelihoods and negatively affected our health, both physically and mentally”.
“I am remorseful, remorseful, deeply sorry and angry with myself for attending the protest,” he wrote.
In a separate letter to the judge, his wife Robyn Epps wrote that Fox News was the couple's “exclusive news channel.”
After Fox and others spread what she called the “Ray Epps conspiracy theory,” the couple “endured death threats and harassment that put our lives in danger,” she wrote.
Their phones were bombarded with threatening messages and “scary” voicemails. People walked past their houses waving guns. Shell casings were found on their property. Couples were posing as potential clients for their wedding business only to have questions about Epps brought to them. The threats, intruders and fear became so overwhelming that they eventually sold their home and business to hide, Ms. Epps wrote.
“We have suffered from the attacks of Fox News, politicians and social media and learned how conspiracy theories can grow so quickly,” he wrote. “They did it because the media and the people who trust them lie, distort the truth and make up information for their own benefit or edification.”
Another letter from members of the Epps family said she was “thrown under the bus by Fox, Trump and so many other media outlets for doing what she thought was necessary to support them.”
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson claimed there is “no reasonable explanation” why this “mysterious figure” who “helped manage the rebellion” was not criminally charged at the time. They are among two dozen statements listed in Epps' lawsuit, which notes that the allegations were not isolated to Carlson's prime-time program.
“Fox repeatedly published defamatory falsehoods about Epps, including broadcasting and rebroadcasting defamatory statements by Tucker Carlson who devoted more than a dozen segments to Epps and republishing those falsehoods” across Fox's platforms, according to the suit.
Members of Congress and Trump himself have also made false allegations about Epps and his family on social media and in congressional hearings. In a post linked to a false claim that Ms Epps worked for Dominion Voting Systems, the voting machine company that has also been subject to a barrage of false statements from Trump allies, the former president wrote: “Is this true?”
In their sentencing brief, federal prosecutors once again shot down conspiracy theories surrounding the Epps family.
“Beyond his four years in the Marines, Epps has never been a federal agent,” they wrote.
Ms Epps said that when the pair are in a “healthier” state, they want to devote themselves to “teaching people how to know what is true and what is false, how to research information about themselves and how to react.”
“We think it's the main reason that [January 6] there was an uprising,” he wrote. “We and others have been deceived by the same entities and if we can contribute in a small degree to the reduction of [effect]we want to do it.”