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Feds accuse Jan. 6 protester of being at center of unproven far-right conspiracy theories

Epps can be seen in a Jan. 5 video encouraging the crowd and calling on protesters to “enter the Capitol,” although he quickly added that it should be done “peacefully.” He appeared at the Capitol the next day and led the crowd that first broke through the barricades. He is seen on video speaking briefly with Ryan Samsel – a rioter who was among the first to break through police lines – shortly before Samsel rushed. He said he was trying to calm Samsel down.

Epps has claimed in interviews that he never entered the Capitol building, and no evidence has emerged to indicate that he did so. That places Epps in a small group of Jan. 6 defendants facing criminal charges without allegations that they entered the Capitol or participated in violence.

The charge against Epps carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Epps was featured in photos released by the FBI shortly after the Capitol riot of individuals about whom they were seeking information as part of the sprawling investigation.

However, the images of Epps were quickly removed from the FBI website and he faced no charges in the 32 months following the melee, leading to other defendants in the 6 January, conservative media and even Trump publicly speculated that Epps was an FBI plant. intended to start a riot and participated in a so-called false flag operation.

For his part, Epps vehemently denied acting that day on behalf of the FBI, and he testified before the committee on January 6 that he had no relationship with the FBI or federal agencies. Other videos show him alongside Proud Boys leader Zachary Rehl as Rehl appears to deploy chemical spray on the officers. Rehl was convicted by a jury earlier this year of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In July 2023, Epps filed a defamation suit against Fox News, complaining that he had been falsely pilloried over the episode, even though he was a Trump supporter and loyal viewer of the network. He said that as part of the suit, he risked facing a criminal charge, which he blamed in part on pressure generated by the attention generated by conspiracy theories aired on Fox.

Fox has denied liability and moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which is pending in federal court in Delaware.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have publicly speculated about Epps’ ties to the FBI and fueled conspiracy theories about the riot.

Trump himself has also fueled the theories, using his Truth Social account to spread baseless allegations about Epps’ wife.

Epps said he received harassing messages and death threats following the ad.

Prosecutors faced so many questions and requests for information about Epps from other Jan. 6 defendants that last year they prepared a disclosure about him to share with the alleged rioters whose lawyers were pushing for such records.

More than 1,100 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riots, as prosecutors continue to file multiple cases each week.

Epps’ attorneys did not immediately respond to messages Tuesday seeking comment on the new charge.




POLITICO

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