By Michael Kunzelman | Related Press
WASHINGTON — A person focused by right-wing conspiracy theories concerning the U.S. Capitol riot was sentenced on Tuesday to a yr of probation for becoming a member of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault by a mob of fellow Donald Trump supporters.
Ray Epps, a former Arizona resident who was pushed into hiding by demise threats, pleaded responsible in September to a misdemeanor cost. He acquired no jail time, and there have been no restrictions positioned on his journey throughout his probation, however he should serve 100 hours of group service.
He appeared remotely by video convention and wasn’t within the Washington, D.C., courtroom when Chief Choose James Boasberg sentenced him. Prosecutors had really helpful a six-month time period of imprisonment for Epps.
Epps’ sentencing came about in the identical constructing the place Trump was attending an appeals courtroom listening to because the Republican former president’s attorneys argued he’s immune from prosecution on fees he plotted to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 election he misplaced.
Fox Information Channel and different right-wing media shops amplified conspiracy theories that Epps, 62, was an undercover authorities agent who helped incite the Capitol assault to entrap Trump supporters. Epps filed a defamation lawsuit towards Fox Information final yr, saying the community was accountable for spreading baseless claims about him.
Epps instructed the decide that he now is aware of that he by no means ought to have believed the lies a few stolen election that Trump and his allies instructed and that Fox Information broadcast.
“I’ve discovered that fact will not be at all times discovered within the locations that I used to belief,” stated Epps, who requested for mercy earlier than studying his sentence.
The decide famous that many conspiracy theorists nonetheless refuse to consider that the Capitol riot was an revolt carried out by Trump supporters. The decide stated he hopes that the threats towards Epps and his spouse subside to allow them to transfer on with their lives.
“You have been hounded out of your house,” the decide stated. “You have been hounded out of your city.”
Federal prosecutors have backed up Epps’ vehement denials that he was a authorities plant or FBI operative. They are saying Epps has by no means been a authorities worker or agent past serving within the U.S. Marines from 1979 to 1983.
The ordeal has compelled Epps and his spouse to promote their property and companies and flee their house in Queen Creek, Arizona, in accordance with his lawyer.
“He enjoys no golf, tennis, journey, or different trappings of retirement. They reside in a trailer within the woods, away from their household, pals, and group,” lawyer Edward Ungvarsky wrote in a courtroom submitting.
The web-fueled accusations that upended Epps’ life have continued even after the Justice Division charged him with collaborating within the Jan. 6 siege.
“Worry of demented extremists has no obvious finish in sight as long as those that unfold hate and lies about Mr. Epps don’t converse loudly and publicly to appropriate the messaging they delivered,” Epps’ lawyer wrote.
Epps pleaded responsible to disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, a cost punishable by a most of 1 yr behind bars.
A prosecutor, Michael Gordon, stated Epps doesn’t need to be inundated with demise threats however ought to serve jail time for his conduct on Jan. 6.
“He didn’t begin the riot. He made it worse.” Gordon instructed the decide.
Epps’ lawyer sought six months of probation with none jail time. Ungvarsky says his shopper went to Washington on Jan. 6 to peacefully protest the certification of the Electoral School vote for Joe Biden, a Democrat, over Trump, a Republican.
“You’re by no means going to see Mr. Epps commit a criminal offense once more,” the protection lawyer stated.
Prosecutors say Epps inspired the mob to storm the Capitol, helped different rioters push a big metal-framed signal into a bunch of officers and took part in “a rugby scrum-like group effort” to push previous a line of law enforcement officials.
“Even when Epps didn’t bodily contact legislation enforcement officers or go within the constructing, he undoubtedly engaged in collective aggressive conduct,” Gordon, an assistant U.S. lawyer, wrote in a courtroom submitting.
Epps surrendered to the FBI two days after the riot after studying that brokers have been attempting to determine him. He agreed to be interviewed by FBI brokers in addition to by the Home committee that investigated the Jan. 6 revolt.
The federal government initially declined to prosecute Epps in 2021 after the FBI investigated his conduct on Jan. 6 and located inadequate proof to cost him with a criminal offense, in accordance with Ungvarsky. Epps isn’t accused of coming into the Capitol or partaking in any violence or destruction on Jan. 6.
“Mr. Epps was certainly one of many who trespassed outdoors the Capitol constructing. By way of the train of prosecutorial discretion, most of these individuals won’t ever be charged,” the protection lawyer wrote.
Greater than 1,200 defendants have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 900 of them have pleaded responsible or been convicted after trials determined by a decide or jury. Roughly 750 rioters have been sentenced, with practically two-thirds getting some time period of imprisonment.
Epps as soon as served as an Arizona chapter chief for the Oath Keepers, however he parted methods with the anti-government extremist group just a few years earlier than the Jan. 6 assault.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and different members have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for plotting to cease the peaceable switch of presidential energy from Trump to Biden after the 2020 election. Rhodes was sentenced final yr to 18 years in jail.
Fox Information hasn’t responded to messages from The Related Press searching for touch upon Epps’ lawsuit.