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Capitol Riot Figure Ray Epps Sentenced to Probation Amidst Conspiracy Theories

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Ray Epps, a central figure in right-wing conspiracy theories surrounding the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, has been sentenced to a year of probation. Epps, formerly a resident of Arizona, had faced accusations propagated by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, suggesting he was an undercover government agent inciting the Capitol attack to entrap Donald Trump supporters.

Epps, 62, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in September 2021, received his sentence remotely via video conference, avoiding a physical presence in the Washington, D.C., courtroom. The sentencing took place in the same building where former President Trump was attending an appeals court hearing regarding charges related to plotting to overturn the 2020 election results.

Despite prosecutors recommending a six-month jail term, Chief Judge James Boasberg opted for probation, highlighting Epps’ plea and imposing 100 hours of community service. The judge acknowledged the threats that forced Epps into hiding, expressing hope that Epps and his wife could move on with their lives.

The sentencing comes against the backdrop of persistent conspiracy theories, especially the claim that Epps was an undercover government agent, which led to his defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Fox News and other media outlets were accused of spreading baseless claims about Epps, contributing to death threats that drove him from his home in Queen Creek, Arizona.

Epps expressed regret during the hearing, admitting to being misguided by falsehoods surrounding a stolen election. He specifically cited the misinformation propagated by Trump and his allies, as well as Fox News. Despite the Justice Department charging Epps for participating in the Capitol siege, conspiracy theories about his involvement persist.

Epps’ lawyer highlighted the ongoing threats and the impact on his client’s life, revealing that Epps and his wife had to sell their property and businesses and live in seclusion. The lawyer criticized those who continue to spread hate and lies about Epps, emphasizing the need for public correction of the false narrative.

While Epps pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year behind bars, prosecutors argued that Epps should serve jail time for exacerbating the violence on January 6. Epps’ attorney countered, seeking six months of probation without jail time, asserting Epps went to Washington for peaceful protest.

The court proceedings revealed Epps’ presence at the Black Lives Matter Plaza on January 5, 2021, advocating for entering the Capitol. On January 6, at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally, Epps was recorded directing attendees towards the Capitol. His involvement continued as he whispered to another man before rioters breached police barricades.

While not accused of entering the Capitol or direct violence, Epps engaged in collective aggressive conduct, as per the prosecution. Epps surrendered to the FBI two days after the riot, cooperating with investigations by the FBI and the House committee. The government initially refrained from prosecuting Epps in 2021 but revisited the case, leading to his guilty plea in September. Amidst over 1,200 defendants charged in Capitol riot-related federal crimes, Epps’ case underscores the complex legal landscape surrounding the events of January 6, 2021.

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