Ray Epps: Target of Capitol riot conspiracy theories charged over January 6

Mr Epps (centre) was outside the Capitol on 6 January 2021
Mr Epps (centre) was outside the Capitol on 6 January 2021

A former Trump supporter who was accused of being a federal agent by online conspiracy theorists after he attended the US Capitol riot has been charged with disorderly conduct.

Ray Epps, 62, was pictured outside Congress on 6 January 2021, but says he did not go in.

He was captured on several videos around the time of the unrest.

In one, from the night of 5 January 2021, he was seen shouting and urging people to enter the Capitol building.

Members of the crowd chanted back "Fed! Fed!" - accusing him of being a law enforcement official.

The following day, during the riot itself, Mr Epps, a former US Marine from Arizona, was seen on another video whispering into the ear of a man who then charged at police lines.

In the days after the riot, conspiracy theories began to circulate online that Mr Epps was secretly working for the FBI. The theories fed into a wider belief, lacking evidence but common in right-wing circles, that government agents instigated the riot.

The rumours started on alternative news outlets and fringe social media accounts, and were referenced on mainstream channels such as Fox News, including by former presenter Tucker Carlson.

In interviews, Mr Epps - a former member of the Oath Keepers militia, which had a sizeable presence at the riot - has denied the allegations.

He said he has no ties to law enforcement agencies and that he did not enter the Capitol building. He said he was trying to calm down - rather than egg on - the man who charged police lines.

He has also said that he got carried away with his mistaken belief that widespread fraud swayed the 2020 election and his support for Mr Trump.

In April, the FBI released a statement to CBS News' 60 Minutes programme that said: "Ray Epps has never been an FBI source or an FBI employee."

In July, Mr Epps sued Fox News over the rumours, accusing the network of defamation and claiming he had to close his business and move to Utah due to threats and harassment that he and his wife received because of the conspiracy theories. The lawsuit alleges Fox told a "fantastical story" and made Mr Epps a "scapegoat".

Fox - which did not immediately reply to a request for comment - has said its on-air hosts were entitled to share constitutionally "protected opinions" about Mr Epps.

Mr Epps could not immediately be reached, and his attorney in the defamation lawsuit did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

He is expected to appear in court Wednesday.