South Carolinians Converging at the East Door … and Hampton Inn

I’d like to look at how two men from South Carolina who stayed at the Hampton Inn together, George Tenney and Robbie Norwood, serially played key roles in opening the East Door on January 6.

As I noted in a post last July, Tenney was arrested with a former Marine named Darrell Youngers, though the subsequent investigation seems to have confirmed that they first met that day. The two of them entered the Capitol together at 2:19PM and went fairly directly to the East door by 2:24PM, where Tenney was the first to attempt to open that door to admit the thousands who had assembled outside. After tussling with the cops for a bit, the two gave up and left the Capitol.

Youngers was charged with just trespassing, but Tenney was charged with three felonies — obstruction, civil disorder, and assault — reflecting in part his contact with the cops and presumably also his premeditation in the weeks leading up to January 6.

When the men first started talking about pleading guilty, Youngers’ lawyer suggested they were sharing information with the government (though that doesn’t show up in their guilty pleas).

On March 30, Youngers pled guilty to parading, the trespassing charge most misdemeanor defendants plead to. His statement of offense focused on three things: Tenney’s efforts to open the East doors (and the contact he had with cops in doing so), Youngers’ own description of the “multiple doors” involved in breaching the Capitol, and an interview he and Tenney gave with William Norwood later that night.

12. YOUNGERS and Tenney proceeded to the area inside the Rotunda Doors. Tenney tried to force open the Rotunda Doors to allow more rioters to enter the Capitol, and he had contact with multiple federal employees in the course of doing so. Tenney and others succeeded in getting the Rotunda Doors open, allowing others to enter the Capitol.

13. YOUNGERS and Tenney eventually moved into the Rotunda. Before leaving the area of the Rotunda Doors, YOUNGERS said, “Two stories. Two floors. Multiple doors. The Capitol Building’s been breached.” YOUNGERS and Tenney retreated to the Rotunda and made their way to the area near Senate Wing Doors, exiting the Capitol Building through a window at approximately 2:32 p.m.

14. That evening, YOUNGERS gave an interview from a hotel room with Tenney and William Robert Norwood III, where they wore masks and head coverings to conceal their identities.

Here’s that interview, which Youngers, Norwood, and Tenney (from left to right) gave while masked.

Norwood — who according to his first bail hearing used to be in a militia, about three years ago — was arrested months earlier than the other two. He had been turned in by family members shortly after the attack after he bragged (falsely) about assaulting a cop. He does appear to know Tenney from South Carolina, but entered the Capitol separately, four minutes after him at 2:23. In a second motion for detention, the government alleged that Norwood led rioters to Nancy Pelosi’s office before joining the later effort to open the East door — the one that led to the Oath Keepers and others breaching the building. After allegedly asking his estranged wife to lie about his case, he was detained, though he and the government are in plea discussions.

Youngers’ plea agreement included the standard language January 6 misdemeanor pleas include, consisting of either a social media review and/or an interview with the FBI, suggesting (though the inclusion of such boilerplate is not reliable) he had not yet done so.

Your client agrees to allow law enforcement agents to conduct an interview of your client regarding the events in and around January 6, 2021 prior to sentencing. Your client can accomplish this through an in-person meeting with a law enforcement agent to allow the law enforcement agent to look through social media accounts on your client’s phone or other device.

The plea agreement Tenney entered into last Thursday, however, lacks that language, which may suggest he already did one or some interviews with the FBI. If Tenney did, he didn’t get much of a deal: he pled to two of the felonies against him: civil disorder and obstruction, avoiding only an assault charge for wrestling with cops. Depending on whether DOJ succeeds in persuading Judge Thomas Hogan to apply an 8-level enhancement for official victim/property damage, Tenney’s sentencing guidelines will be 21 to 27 months (without the enhancement) or 41 to 51 months (with it) — the latter of which would be one of the stiffest sentences to date for a prosecution that didn’t involve assaulting a cop, but which might be appropriate for the tactically critical role that opening that East door played in occupying the Capitol.

But I’m more interested in Tenney’s statement of offense, particularly how it compares to his and Youngers’ arrest affidavit. That is, I’m interested in any sign that DOJ has learned why and how Tenney came to head right through the Capitol to the East side to open that door, where thousands were waiting, or whether Norwood’s subsequent successful efforts (as part of a larger group) to open the East doors was related.

With Tenney’s guilty plea, the government has included slightly more language from December 28 indicating that Tenney was coordinating with people who were planning for all eventualities.

In two bail proceedings the government focused on Norwood’s lies about leaving the vest and helmet he stole at the hotel. But he also appears to have lied about with whom he was staying at the Hampton, claiming he stayed with an older couple from Ohio rather than people close to his same age from nearby in South Carolina.

Finally, NORWOOD claimed that upon leaving the Capitol grounds, he and his wife met an older couple from Ohio, who invited them to stay in their hotel room at the Hampton Inn for the night. NORWOOD claimed that he left the police vest and helmet inside the hotel room, but he could not provide interviewing agents with any further details about the hotel.

After Norwood was interviewed. by the FBI, he let Tenney know about it, because Tenney told the FBI that he knew about it in an (similarly misleading) interview little over two weeks later.

TENNEY said that he was only inside the Capitol Building for three or four minutes before he and the people he was with realized that something bad was happening, prompting them to leave. He indicated that he did not think he was doing anything wrong at the time, but, in hindsight, wishes he had not gone inside the Capitol Building. TENNEY further stated that he did not engage in any violence inside or cause property damage. Instead, he said, he told people to stop damaging things and helped officers who had fallen to the ground to get back on their feet.

[snip]

During his February 9 interview, TENNEY also mentioned two other names: “Darnell,” (YOUNGERS’ first name is “Darrell”) and a person he identified as “Robbie” from Greenville, S.C., whom he said had already been interviewed by the FBI. TENNEY admitted to having met “Robbie” in the crowd at the January 6 rally, before he entered the Capitol.

In an interview after his arrest, Norwood admitted sharing a hotel room with Tenney.

In a subsequent interview on February 26, 2021, Norwood mentioned sharing a hotel room the night of January 6 with an individual named “George,” which is TENNEY’s first name.

What happened in that hotel room appears to be some of the substance of what Norwood was trying to convince his estranged wife to renege her testimony on months later, leading up to January (when prosecutors first asked Judge Emmet Sullivan to revoke Norwood’s bail).

The content of the defendant’s text messages with his estranged wife, appended as attachments to Pretrial’s Violation Report, show what appears to be a sustained campaign by the defendant to coerce, intimidate, threaten, and corruptly persuade a potential government witness to recant her statements to law enforcement and to obstruct justice. Communications between the estranged wife and defense counsel, which are also appended as attachments to Pretrial’s Violation Report, provide context for the text messages between the defendant and his estranged wife: “Robert Norwood has been trying to [coerce] me into emailing you, stating that, anything from my statements to the FBI were not true. However, I do not feel comfortable lying [sic] about anything. . . . I do not feel comfortable in anything that he was telling me to do.”

[snip]

The estranged wife’s communications with Norwood and with Norwood’s counsel show that the defendant has, at the very least, been pressuring his estranged wife to recant her statements to the FBI, to not be truthful, and to “keep [her] mouth shut.” ECF No. 29, Att. 3. In fact, when the estranged wife texted the defendant, “I will tell the whole truth,” the defendant responded, “No you won’t . . . You’ll tell them you reached out to me and made the offer. That I didn’t respond to you . . . Do not throw me under the bus . . . What part of spousal privilege don’t you get???” Id. Additionally, when the estranged wife texted the defendant, “I refuse to write another bogus f***ing email,” the defendant responded, “It’s not bogus, and it will help us both. . . . Do what you said you already did. You lied to me. STUP F***ING LYING ABOUT EVERYTHING AND HELP ME LIKE YOU SAID YOU WOULD.”

To be clear: it’s not clear what relationship there is between Tenney and Norwood, aside from their shared hotel room and proximity in South Carolina. It’s their shared focus on the East door.

At 2:24, after making a beeline through the Capitol, Tenney was the first person to open the East door.

And about fourteen minutes later, Norwood similarly helped open the East door.

Then later that night, the two men donned masks and told their stories of the day, stories that presumably explain how both came to help rioters amassed on the East side of the building open a second front of attack.

By December 28, 2020, Tenney knew of plans to siege the Capitol. On January 6, he and fellow South Carolinian Norwood both played key roles in that siege.

So what happened in between?

Thanks to @CapitolHunters for pointing me to this video, which takes forever to download, which shows both breaches, and to talk me through some of the other people of interest who have yet to be arrested.

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38 replies
  1. Benvindo Soares says:

    Seems to be a gang of “serially” going on with both dudes. I see your point …one apparently new the dance steps prior to the show…I’m not a military guy, but I know in football the wide outs tend to have a certain charisma. The best ones make their defender’s do a dance of their choosing…but its still the charismatic, physically gifted wide out that leads the dance- or so he thinks – until its a Deon Sanders type of course .
    I reckon time will tell. Funny how much little regard these dudes have for game day tape. The begotten professional is not a fan of gameday tape. His/Her check depends on it. Imho.
    Sorry no baseball analogies for y’all today .. MyLady from me anyway…

    Thank you, for sharing your work …[email protected] you’re my Deon Sanders. If I could I would pay you as such.

  2. Ginevra diBenci says:

    What links, direct or indirect, do Tenney and Norwood have to any of those helpful “tourist visits” to survey the Capitol building in the days before the siege?

  3. Doctor My Eyes says:

    When is the East Door not the East Door? When it’s a-jarring to the body politic.

  4. Riktol says:

    Before leaving the area of the Rotunda Doors, YOUNGERS said, “Two stories. Two floors. Multiple doors. The Capitol Building’s been breached.”

    Who was Youngers speaking to? It sounds like a sitrep, and there’s no need for him to narrate to Tenney.
    Relatedly, how do the prosecutors know that he said it?
    And do we know of anyone receiving a phone call shortly after 14:38?

  5. dadidoc1 says:

    Several of these guys are in trouble for stealing panties from their mother’s panty drawer and then wearing the granny panties over their unusually large heads (see photo above). The tie-dyed ones are something special. Our children did that when they were young and we called them panty heads. Some guys never grow up.

  6. harpie says:

    #J6TL
    I was working on a TL from the HUTCHINSON Hearing at a now-closed post, and got on a little side line about the witness intimidation, which focuses on MEADOWS aide Ben WILLIAMSON. That’s here: https://www.emptywheel.net/2022/07/01/amid-claims-of-witness-tampering-revisiting-peter-navarros-alleged-contempt/#comment-946181

    3/6/22 MEADOWS INTERMEDIARY to HUTCHINSON:

    “MEADOWS let me know you have your deposition tomorrow.” [] “He wants me to let you know that he’s thinking about you. He knows you’re loyal, and you’re going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.”

    6/16/22 MEADOWS aide WILLIAMSON and Deputy WH Press Secretary Sarah MATTHEWS testify at J6 Committee Hearing #3: PENCE PRESSURE [They were both in the WH on J6]

    6/25/22 ProPublica reports that:

    Through his adviser Ben WILLIAMSON, MEADOWS declined to comment on whether the organizers [Amy KREMER et al.] contacted him regarding the march.

    6/28/22 HUTCHINSON testifies at J6 Committee Hearing #6;
    public learns about the witness intimidation [SEE 3/6/22]

    6/30/22 MEADOWS aide WILLIAMSON denies any witness intimidation of HUTCHINSON:

    [Politico] “No one from Meadows’ camp, himself or otherwise, has ever attempted to intimidate or shape Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony to the committee. Any phone call or message she is describing is at best deeply misleading.”

    7/5/22 J6 Committee announces the Hearing #7 for 7/12/22 at 10:00 AM

    [CNN]: The last two hearings are expected to focus on the assembly of a violent mob in Washington, DC, that Trump directed to march to the US Capitol and on Trump ignoring pleas for assistance and failing to take immediate action to try to stop the violence.

    Earlier Tuesday, the committee announced a hearing will be held on July 12, and it’s expected to focus on the role of extremist groups on January 6.

    7/5/22 CNN reports that the J6 Committee has subpoenaed former TRUMP WH Deputy Press Secretary, Sarah MATTHEWS , AND that she “has agreed to testify at an upcoming [public] hearing [] as early as next week.”

    All the links are at the previous comment thread, except CNN:
    https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/05/politics/sarah-matthews-testifying-january-6-committee/index.html

    • harpie says:

      [I’ve deleted this TWICE from another location. Sorry!]

      From the WILLIAMSON subpoena [I added the numbers]:

      […] The Select Committee’s investigation and public accounts have revealed credible evidence of your involvement in the events within the scope of the Select Committee’s inquiry. Given your service as Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, you are in a position to potentially inform the Select Committee’s examination of Mr. Meadows’ efforts to communicate with others relevant to the Select Committee’s investigation, including

      1] officials in Georgia, about allegations of fraud that had already been dismissed by state and federal courts,1

      2] organizers of the January 6 events including Amy Kremer,2

      3] high-level officials at the Department of Justice about federal investigations into purported voter fraud,3 and

      4] U.S. Government officials during attack of the U.S. Capitol.4

      In addition, reports indicate that former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah contacted Mr. Meadows and you during the attack on the U.S. Capitol and urged you, without success, to have former President Trump issue a statement addressing the attack and condemning the violence.5

      • harpie says:

        I didn’t know WILLIAMSON had both titles:
        Deputy Assistant to TRUMP and Senior Advisor to MEADOWS

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          harpie, thank you for so painstakingly constructing this timeline. As always, your work informs my own understanding more than anything else except Dr. Wheeler’s posts; you two complement each other’s efforts so beautifully.

          Given these dual titles, Williamson leaning on Hutchinson for her “loyalty” cuts both ways too: not just loyalty to Meadows but to Big Boss Trump too. That implied threat carries much more weight.

          • harpie says:

            Thank you, Ginevra!
            It’s great to be able to all work together as we do here!

            I just want to emphasize here that I am NOT SURE WILLIAMSON was the Meadows INTERMEDIARY or one of the Trump ALLIES.

            At this point, it’s just all interesting timing.

    • harpie says:

      This is from where HUTCHINSON mentions WILLIAMSON:

      HUTCHINSON: So I remember Mark being alone in his office for quite some time. And, you know, I know we’ve spoken about Ben Williamson going in at one point, and I don’t personally remember Ben going in. I don’t doubt that he had gone in. But I remember him being alone in his office for most of the afternoon. […] [Around 2:00 PM to 2:05 PM] you know, we were watching the TV and I could see that the rioters were getting closer and closer to the Capitol. Mark still hadn’t popped out of his office or said anything about it. So that’s when I went into his office. […]

      I think this might be a point of discrepancy bet. their stories.

      • harpie says:

        The Committee released excerpts from WILLIAMSON’s 1/25/22 deposition in an EASTMAN court filing, where he’s talking about a text he sent MEADOWS at 2:02 PM, and that he followed up by talking to MEADOWS in person just after he sent the text. [pdf6/9] They also talk about the fact that MEADOWS has multiple phones [HUTCHINSON mentioned that as well] One is called “OLD Mark”.

        The TEXT they’re discussing:
        2:02 PM WILLIAMSON text to MEADOWS:
        “Would recommend POTUS put out a tweet about respecting the police over at 5 the Capitol — getting a little hairy over there”

        https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.841840/gov.uscourts.cacd.841840.160.12.pdf

        • harpie says:

          Their talk about what WILLIAMSON says MEADOWS did after their little conversation after the text sounds…pretty fishy to me. I think that would have been around the time period HUTCHINSON says she was talking to MEADOWS in his office and asking him if he knew where Jim JORDAN was.

          added:
          Yes, see the 2:00 PM – 2:05 PM and 2:15 PM entries here:
          https://www.emptywheel.net/2022/07/01/amid-claims-of-witness-tampering-revisiting-peter-navarros-alleged-contempt/#comment-946140

          • harpie says:

            Sarah MATTHEWS will have info about this time period.
            I wonder if she’s been contacted by a MEADOWS INTERMEDIARY or TRUMP ALLIES.

            Pat CIPOLLONE would also be able to shed some light here.

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              harpie, I just reread your entire insurrection timeline within the now-closed comment thread on the witness tampering / Peter Navarro contempt post (www.emptywheel.net/2022/07/01/amid-claims-of-witness-tampering-revisiting-peter-navarros-alleged-contempt/).

              I can’t recommend highly enough that others do the same; what harpie put here is not duplicative, and the comprehensive TL might get your heart pounding too, like it did mine. Just essential–should serve as the spine for any written report on these events.

              One thing I looked for was any mention of when various parties (Ratcliff, Ornato, CSP, O’Brien) might have learned about the pipe bombs being discovered. Did I miss it, or is it absent from the record?

  7. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    Below is from “Trump on Trial: A Guide to the January 6 Hearings and the Question of Criminality” from the Brookings Institution:

    “Georgia’s RICO statute recognizes that repeated violations of law by an enterprise are deserving of legal sanctions additional to those that would be levied against an individual for similar conduct. The key to the RICO statue—and to its prosecutability—is a demonstrated “pattern” of misconduct, namely two or more violations included in a list of eligible crimes. Several of the state charges discussed above are among those eligible offenses. If Trump or his collaborators were found guilty of those requisite state crimes, they may also be subject to a RICO prosecution.”

    The Guide also states “guilty knowledge is not necessary for conviction” under the relevant Georgia statures. “The law holds that he committed a Georgia crime if he intended to solicit an election offense, whether or not he really believed that he won the election.

    • bmaz says:

      The relentless and foaming desire of people to pound the square peg of extant facts down the round hole of RICO and treason would be amusing if it were not so pathetic.

      • KM Williams says:

        I suppose it is because everything connected to Trump stinks of mobster mentality and brutality; the fact that he is closely connected to the Russian Mafia-Government, makes people assume (perhaps wrongly) that he should be investigated as an organized crime figure would be. He looks like, waddles like, quacks like and smells like the 2-bit mobster he is.

      • timbo says:

        Do you support the Georgia RICO law or not? Basically, some of us are asking that it be enforced if there is a proven pattern of law breaking and conspiracy.

  8. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    As I studied RICO today, I was left wondering what’s the advantage. If Trump is convicted of a couple other election crimes in Georgia that predicate RICO, I would be both ecstatic and greatly relieved. I know many people want him to rot in prison until he’s 200 years old, but I would be satisfied if the history books are written correctly and if steps are taken to protect/restore a true and stable democracy.

  9. Desider says:

    The shared hotel room tied to the synchronized East Door swimming makes it easier to prove coordination/conspiracy, rather than lesser charges for “random well-meaning dudes inspired by a speech like 1000s of others & showing up at the wrong place/wrong time”, would that be correct? Which might also give the DoJ some leverage for them to spill the beans on others higher up who helped arrange that hotel room (AFAIK we’ve heard very little about the money trail which DoJ almost assuredly has) & coordinate things.

    • harpie says:

      What IF this hotel is BIGGS’s “HERE“?

      1/5/21 8:52 PM BIGGS, on “Boots on the Ground”:
      “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight. Tomorrow’s the day” [] “I’m here with rufio [NORDEAN] and a good group[.]”

      • harpie says:

        … and what IF Youngers, Norwood, and Tenney were a part of that “good group” [] “go[ing] over tomorrow’s plan”?

        5:25 PM BIGGS posts on BOG: “Just trying to get our numbers. So we can plan accordingly for tonight and go over tomorrow’s plan.”

        8:52 PM BIGGS, on BOG: “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight. Tomorrow’s the day” [] “I’m here with rufio [NORDEAN] and a good group[.]”

  10. harpie says:

    CapitolHunters recently posted this very informative thread, taking off from Marcy’s post, here:

    https://twitter.com/capitolhunters/status/1544412192514121732
    4:05 PM · Jul 5, 2022

    In unpicking the organization of the Jan 6 Capitol attack, we look for events that are not random. @emptywheel reminds us: the two breaches of the Columbus Doors, at 2:25 and 2:38 PM, were initiated by South Carolina men from the same group – who even shared a hotel room. [PHOTOS: 2:25 PM TENNEY; 2:38 PM NORWOOD] 1/

    Their story also shows us how small crews were built to do ‘jobs’ in the attack. Tenney & Norwood did not know each other, but were recruited & paired up in the weeks before Jan 6 by the admin of the “PowerHouse Patriot” FB page, who attended but let others do the dirty work. 2/
    […]
    Adding: the “distributed crew” model explains many puzzles about Jan 6. For ex.: Marine Chris Warnagiris plays a role at the Columbus Doors, then looks lost afterwards. But that can make sense – if he had only one job. (h/t @emptywheel who called it.) 7/ [end]

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