Ray Epps (military veteran)

James Ray Epps (born 1961 or 1962) is a former United States Marine and Oath Keepers chapter president who was one of the rioters at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.[1]

Ray Epps
James Ray Epps

May 28, 1961
EmployerUnited States Marine Corps
OrganizationOath Keepers
SpouseRobyn Epps (wife)

Following January 6, conspiracy theories were shared on Twitter and by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, accusing Epps of being an agent provocateur and linking his wife to Dominion Voting Systems.[2] In July 2023, Epps started litigation against Fox News for amplifying these conspiracy theories.[3] In September 2023, he was charged with and pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct for his participation in the attack,[4] and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Early life and career edit

Epps was born in 1961 or 1962[5] as James Ray Epps.[6] Epps worked for the United States Marine Corps before opening a wedding venue business in Queen Creek, Arizona,[5] with his wife, Robyn Epps.[3][7] In May 2022, the Epps' moved away from Arizona, closing their business and relocating to a trailer in Utah.[8]

January 6 Capitol attack edit

On January 5, 2021, in Washington, D.C., Epps was filmed participating in two street gatherings. At one of the gatherings, he urged people to "go into the Capitol" the next day, though others in the crowd reacted by repeatedly chanting "Fed!", accusing him of working for the federal government.[9][10] In the early afternoon of January 6, 2021, Epps was filmed in desert camouflage clothing, telling a group of people that when "the president is done speaking, we go to the Capitol".[9][10] In another video from that day, Epps was filmed moving towards police barricades around the Capitol, and talking to another protester, Ryan Samsel.[5][9] Footage does not show Epps engaging in violence.[9] He was part of the crowd surrounding the Capitol, but he did not enter the building.[11]

Aftermath edit

Due to that footage, Epps appeared on an FBI list of wanted suspects after the attack. Two days later, Epps called the FBI to say that he had told Samsel to calm down. Samsel corroborated this in an FBI interview later that month, stating that Epps had told him "Relax, the cops are doing their job”.[5][9] In his phone call, Epps repeated claims that the election was stolen, as a recording of the call shows.[5]

On multiple occasions, starting June 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson used his television show to share conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack being set up by agent provocateurs, and accused Epps of being an agent of the government. In January 2022 Carlson stated that Epps had "stage-managed the insurrection."[12]

In October 2021, video of Epps was played by Republican congressman Thomas Massie during a House oversight hearing. Massie asked Attorney General Merrick Garland why Epps had not been charged with any crime. Garland refused to comment on charges against any specific individuals during the hearing.[13] The same month, right-leaning magazine Revolver published an article with the headline "Meet Ray Epps: The Fed-Protected Provocateur Who Appears To Have Led The Very First 1/6 Attack On The U.S. Capitol."[14][15]

In January 2022, the conspiracy theory about Epps was dismissed by the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.[16] In July the same year, the Associated Press debunked claims shared via Twitter that Epps was in communication with Nancy Pelosi's office prior to the January 6 attack.[17] Both USA Today and Reuters debunked another conspiracy theory that Epps' wife worked for Dominion Voting Systems.[18][19]

By April 2023, Epps was living in hiding, after receiving death threats associated with the belief that he was an agent provocateur at the attack.[10] In an interview, he accused Republican politicians Thomas Massie, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene of spreading lies about him.[20] The conspiracy theory was also shared by Donald Trump.[5] His lawyers served a cease and desist letter to Fox News on March 23, 2023, demanding that they stop repeating "malicious lies about his involvement in the events of January 6th."[21][22]

In July 2023, Epps commenced litigation against Fox News, after he accused Tucker Carlson and other hosts of perpetuating myths that Epps was an agent provocateur,[3] working for the FBI.[23] According to the FBI, Epps "has never been an FBI source or an FBI employee".[11] Epps hired the same legal counsel that Dominion Voting Systems used in their successful litigation against Fox News.[24] Michael Teter, Epps' lawyer, was critical of podcaster Joe Rogan: "The fact that people like Joe Rogan continue to propagate the lie that Ray Epps participated in a false flag operation to instigate the Jan. 6 riots demonstrates the widespread and lasting harm that Fox News has done to Ray".[25]

In September 2023, federal prosecutors filed an information charging Epps with a single count of disorderly conduct on restricted grounds.[26][27] He pleaded guilty to the charge on September 20.[28] On January 9, 2024, Epps was sentenced to a year of probation.[29]

Views edit

Epps is a supporter of Donald Trump and voted for him in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.[23] While appearing on the CBS television show 60 Minutes he shared his belief that Trump had the 2020 election stolen from him.[23] In 2011, Epps was the president of the Arizona chapter of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia.[1] He told People Magazine that he left the Oath Keepers after reaching the conclusion that the group was "too radical".[8]

Personal life edit

He is a father, an uncle, and a grandfather.[20]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Putterman, Samantha (November 18, 2021). "There's still no evidence the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, despite claims otherwise". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on May 18, 2022. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  2. ^ Pengelly, Martin (September 19, 2023). "Ray Epps, rioter at centre of conspiracy theory, charged over January 6". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 18, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c "Ray Epps sues Fox News for Capitol riot conspiracy claim". BBC News. July 12, 2023. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  4. ^ "Ray Epps, Jan. 6 rioter who was subject of conspiracy theories, pleads guilty". NBC News. September 20, 2023. Retrieved November 18, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Feuer, Alan (May 5, 2022). "New Evidence Undercuts Jan. 6 Instigator Conspiracy Theory". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 16, 2022. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  6. ^ Roeloffs, Mary Whitfill (July 12, 2023). "Trump Supporter Ray Epps Sues Fox News After Tucker Carlson Baselessly Called Him A Jan. 6 Instigator". Forbes. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  7. ^ Peters, Jeremy W.; Feuer, Alan (July 10, 2023). "The Case That Could Be Fox's Next Dominion". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on July 12, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Eskind, Amy (July 19, 2023). "Inside Jan. 6 Participant Ray Epps' Defamation Suit Against Fox News: 'They Searched for a Scapegoat to Blame'". People. Retrieved July 20, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d e Putterman, Samantha (November 18, 2021). "There's still no evidence the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, despite claims otherwise". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Whitaker, Bill (April 23, 2023). "January 6 protester Ray Epps says he relives Capitol riot every day | 60 Minutes - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. Archived from the original on June 20, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  11. ^ a b Jackman, Tom (October 16, 2023). "Ray Epps, focus of a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory, is charged in Capitol riot". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved December 15, 2023.
  12. ^ Blake, Aaron (July 13, 2023). "Analysis | Fox News's trouble with Tucker Carlson and Ray Epps". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  13. ^ Ryman, Anne (October 22, 2022). "Arizona man who was at U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 featured in video during House hearing with AG Merrick Garland". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on March 28, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  14. ^ Putterman, Samantha. "There's still no evidence that the FBI incited the Jan. 6 riot, despite stories claiming otherwise". PolitiFact. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  15. ^ Cercone, Jeff (July 18, 2023). "Ray Epps is suing Fox News for defamation over Jan. 6 claims. We fact-checked those claims and others". Poynter. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
  16. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (January 11, 2022). "House panel dismisses 'unsupported' claims about FBI involvement in Jan. 6 Capitol riot". CNBC. Archived from the original on March 9, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  17. ^ "Post spreads baseless claim about Jan. 6 conversations". Associated Press. July 5, 2022.
  18. ^ "Fact Check-Ray Epps' wife held a position at Dominion Enterprises, not Dominion Voting Systems". Reuters. July 28, 2022. Archived from the original on April 6, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  19. ^ Frank, BrieAnna J. (August 17, 2023). "Robyn Epps worked for Dominion Enterprises, not Dominion Voting Systems | Fact check". USA TODAY. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  20. ^ a b Reilly, Ryan J. (December 29, 2022). "Pro-Trump protester Ray Epps told Jan. 6 committee 'crazy' conspiracy theories tore apart his life". NBC News. Archived from the original on May 14, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  21. ^ Concepcion, Summer (March 23, 2023). "Pro-Trump protester Ray Epps seeks retraction of conspiracy theory from Tucker Carlson". NBC News. Archived from the original on June 20, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  22. ^ Vale, Eddie (lawyer) (March 23, 2023). "Cease and Desist letter". www.documentcloud.org. Archived from the original on June 16, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  23. ^ a b c Macfarlane, Scott (July 12, 2023). "Fox News sued for defamation by two-time Trump voter Ray Epps over Jan. 6 conspiracy claims - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  24. ^ Mohyeldin, Ayman (July 16, 2023). "'They better get out a really big check book': Dominion case rips open Fox News to more lawsuits from Smartmatic, Ray Epps, and more". MSNBC.com. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  25. ^ Daniell, Mark (August 1, 2023). "Joe Rogan thinks Capitol riot was a false-flag attack to bring down Donald Trump". Toronto Sun.
  26. ^ Bohannon, Molly (September 19, 2023). "Ray Epps Charged With Jan. 6 Crime—After Conspiracy Theory Claimed He Worked For FBI". Forbes.
  27. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (September 19, 2023). "Pro-Trump protester Ray Epps, focus of Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, charged with disorderly conduct". CNBC.
  28. ^ Feuer, Alan; Montague, Zach (September 20, 2023). "Ray Epps, Target of Conspiracy Theory, Pleads Guilty to Jan. 6 Misdemeanor". The New York Times.
  29. ^ "Ray Epps, Target of Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theory, Is Sentenced to Probation". January 9, 2024. Retrieved March 14, 2024.

External links edit