By Joseph M. Hanneman
Federal prosecutors on Sept. 18 charged James Ray Epps Sr., who was shown on video encouraging protesters to enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, with a single disorderly conduct count that carries up to a year in jail.
Mr. Epps, 62, was named in a criminal charging document (pdf) filed in Washington D.C. with one count of disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
Mr. Epps’s case was assigned to Chief Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The filing of a charging document—as opposed to a grand jury indictment—often indicates a defendant will take a plea deal, which is consistent with the docket in the case.
Mr. Epps will be arraigned at 3 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20 via Zoom before Judge Boasberg. The session is labeled on the docket as an “arraignment/plea agreement hearing.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Epps’s defense attorney, Edward J. Ungvarsky, for comment on the misdemeanor charge. No comment has been received.
Mr. Epps was captured on video telling protesters in Washington to go into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He made the remarks the night of Jan. 5 and the morning of Jan. 6, videos show.
He was also shown on police bodycam video on the west front of the U.S. Capitol as a peacemaker, intervening to prevent protesters from pushing on police barricades or attacking officers.
Mr. Epps’s photograph was originally listed as No. 16 on the FBI’s Jan. 6 most-wanted page but was later removed from the site without explanation.
After learning his photo was on the FBI site, Mr. Epps called the National Threat Operations Center (NTOC) on Jan. 8, 2021, and explained his actions in Washington.
“I am guilty of being there and probably trespassing,” Mr. Epps said during the 27-minute phone call, according to records obtained in 2022 by The Epoch Times.
“But I had a reason. I was trying to calm ’em down,” Mr. Epps said during the call. “I wanted to be there, but I’m trying to calm ’em down. Anything I can do to help. There’s no call for that kind of behavior. I will be your witness.”
In an interview with FBI agents on March 3, 2021, Mr. Epps expressed regret for what he said to protesters at Black Lives Matter Plaza the night of Jan. 5. He spoke to internet personality Baked Alaska and video podcaster Villain Report, both of whom recorded their exchanges.
“In fact, tomorrow, I don’t even like to say it because I’ll be arrested. … I’ll say it. We need to go into the Capitol,” Mr. Epps told Baked Alaska, whose legal name is Anthime Gionet.
Mr. Epps shouted a similar theme to the crowd at large: “Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol. Peacefully.” The crowd then started chanting, “Fed! Fed! Fed! Fed!”
When one of the FBI agents pointed out that Epps’s statements “basically predicted what happened” on Jan. 6, Mr. Epps replied, “I wish I could take that back.”
He called the statements “really stupid,” according to FBI records obtained by The Epoch Times.
On Jan. 6, Mr. Epps was filmed near the Washington Monument, telling the crowd, “We are going to the Capitol, where our problems are. It’s that direction. Please spread the word.”
Mr. Epps told the FBI he had planned to stay for all of the speeches at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, including that of President Donald Trump.
“I planned on being there and word was being passed around that right after he gets done speaking, we’re gonna go to the Capitol. And it was a given,” he said. “So spread the word, spread the word. So I started spreading the word, and I said that to a lot of people there: ‘We’re going to the Capitol right after the president speaks.’”
Mr. Epps was filmed at the first three breaches of police lines at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
At the first breach point of police lines—roughly 20 minutes before President Trump finished speaking at the Ellipse—an aggressive crowd gathered at a lightly defended barrier on a sidewalk not far from the Peace Monument on the Capitol’s west front.
Present at Breaches
As the crowd began yanking at the police barriers, Mr. Epps pulled Ryan Samsel back from the front line and spoke in his ear. Seconds after that exchange, Mr. Samsel and others knocked down the barrier, causing one officer to fall back and hit her head on the concrete.
“I walked up to him, and I put my arm on him and said, ‘Hey, that’s not why we’re here. Don’t be doing that,’ you know,” Mr. Epps told the FBI. “I don’t know who he was. No clue. I just tried to talk him out of doing what he was doing. And then all of a sudden, it blew up.”
Mr. Epps said he went to Washington D.C. in January 2021 due to concerns about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.
“I still have concerns about the election. I do. I mean, I think everybody does,” he told the FBI in March 2021. “I think our politicians, some of them need to be in jail. I think you guys need to investigate them.
“I don’t know. How much of what we get is the truth? I don’t know,” Mr. Epps said. “Not even worth watching the news anymore. Because they just make it up as they go.”