WASHINGTON — A Donald Trump supporter who faced threats after far-right conspiracy theorists and then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson falsely suggested he was a secret government operative who entrapped other Jan. 6 rioters was sentenced to probation on Tuesday.
Ray Epps, who was on the grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count earlier this year. Prosecutors sought a six-month prison sentence for Epps who became a target of far-right conspiracy theorists who have sought ways to obscure the truth: that hundreds of Trump supporters committed criminal acts on Jan. 6 because they believed the former president’s lie that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen.
“More than 700 people have been sentenced in this courthouse for their role in January 6th. Not one is a member of Antifa or a FBI agent,” Judge James Boasberg said Tuesday before sentencing Epps to probation.
Federal prosecutors had argued that Epps’ conduct on Jan. 6 was worthy of a period of incarceration, saying he “did not deserve the threats but does deserve to go to jail.”
“Ray Epps has been unfairly scapegoated. He was not a secret agent trying to trick Trump supporters,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon said during the sentencing hearing. “He is not innocent either.”
Epps told the judge before his sentencing that Fox News contributed to his belief that the election was stolen. He is suing Fox News, accusing it of spreading the conspiracy theory that he was a federal agent. Fox News has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and asked for an oral argument.
Speaking of the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, Epps said that he had “never seen hate and vulgarity on this level” and that he realized “in hindsight” that what he did on Jan. 6 “is not what a Constitution-loving American would do.”
Epps, who now lives in an RV with his wife because of threats and called into the hearing remotely, said that he now chooses God and the Constitution over politicians and that he wants to help others who fell for lies about the 2020 presidential election.
“I commit to use the rest of my life to teach others to respect election results,” Epps said, indicating he planned to commit himself to advocating against election denialism.
Boasberg said that Epps had been “vilified in a matter unique to January 6 defendants” and that he was “the only one who suffered for what you didn’t do.” Boasberg said he believed Epps was truly remorseful for his actions.
“Given all of that mitigation, I believe prison is not warranted,” Boasberg said, sentencing Epps to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Despite the fact that Epps was charged with and pleaded guilty to a federal crime, and that the government advocated for Epps to spend six months in federal prison, baseless and fact-free conspiracy theories about him continued to spread on Tuesday.