SC man who bragged about role in Capitol Riot, stole police body armor to receive bond hearing

South Carolina News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCBD) – William Robert Norwood III of Greer, S.C. was indicted on seven counts by a federal grand jury for his role in the January 6 violent insurrection at the United States Capitol. He was deemed a danger to the community by a South Carolina Magistrate Judge and ordered detained pending trial. On April 14, Norwood’s attorneys filed a motion for bond, and a Washington, D.C. court has agreed to hold a bond hearing.

News 2 has obtained the court records, including transcripts of proceedings, and will break down the elements as they have unfolded thus far.

January 6 indictment:

FBI agents were alerted of Norwood’s participation in the January 6 Capitol Riots after he sent provocative text messages to family members bragging about his actions.

He said that he “got away with things that others were shot or arrested for,” “fought four cops,” and stole “a nice helmet and body armor off a cop.”

Norwood posted a photo of himself near the Capitol that day, and surveillance photos from inside the Capitol showed a man matching his description.

FBI agents were also able to place Norwood inside the Capitol based on cell phone records and data.

Prior to Norwood’s arrest, he suspected the FBI may be surveilling him and “engaged in what the Magistrate Judge in the District of South Carolina described as ‘evasive’ conduct.” He parked nearly a quarter mile away from his house and walked home, turned off all the lights, watched outside his window, then snuck out the back and left in a different car.

When the FBI was finally able to interrogate Norwood, he lied. Court documents recount that “during a non-custodial voluntary interview on January 22, 2021, [Norwood] told FBI agents that he left the stolen USCP body armor vest and helmet inside a hotel room before leaving Washington, D.C.
However, upon searching defendant’s box trailer on February 26, 2021, the FBI recovered the
stolen USCP body armor vest and helmet.”

He was ultimately indicted by a federal grand jury on the following counts:

  • Obstruction of an Official Proceeding (felony)
  • Theft of Government Property (felony)
  • Knowingly Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds
  • Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds (3)
  • Entering and Remaining in Certain Rooms in the Capitol Building – the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Taking into consideration the facts of the case, The District of South Carolina recommended Norwood be detained pending trial “based on the serious risk that [Norwood] would flee and the serious risk that [Norwood] would obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice.”

Four key factors:

On April 14, a motion was filed by Norwood asking the court to reconsider his detention and release him on personal recognizance.

The defense case relies heavily on the Bail Reform Act, which “requires the courts to release defendants pending trial on personal recognizance or on an unsecured appearance bond unless the government has presented clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions that will ‘reasonably’ assure the appearance of the person as required or… the safety of any other person or the community.”

Four key factors are considered when determining whether pretrial detention is prudent. Below are the defense’s arguments for — as well as the government’s interpretation of — Norwood’s actions respective to each factor.

1.) Nature and Circumstances of the Charged Offenses

Norwood’s defense claims that despite Norwood’s tough talk in the messages to his family, “Norwood is not charged with dangerous conduct during the events of 6 January.” They admit that “there is one count alleging theft of government property, but the other six counts reflect a general theme of solely being present in a place rather than being accused of more dangerous destructive or assaultive [actions].”

On this topic, the government concedes that “to date, the government has not identified evidence [Norwood] engaged in any violent or assaultive conduct either inside or outside the U.S. Capitol building.” However, the government goes on to say that [Norwood’s] arrogance following the January 6 riot — including lying to FBI agents about leaving the stolen USCP body armor vest and helmet inside a hotel room — underscores his utter lack of remorse for his actions.” He also “led a pack of rioters through the inner sanctum of Speaker Pelosi’s office space… [and] kept a souvenir from Speaker Pelosi’s office — a paper coaster with the words “United States Congress” printed on it — which law enforcement ultimately recovered from [Norwood’s] vehicle.”

Norwood’s defense also points to the fact that he was not a main organizer of the event, saying “the nature of him being a single defendant removes from the equation the issue so concerning to other courts evaluating pretrial release in these matters: That of defendants continuing on with the conspiratorial actions.”

The government agrees that Norwood was not one of the masterminds behind the attack, but notes that “the government does have evidence that [Norwood] engaged in prior planning before arriving in Washington D.C. on January 6. In a post-arrest Mirandized interview on February 26, 2021, [Norwood] admitted to packing a green tactical vest, bear mace, and a knife in the vehicle he drove to Washington, D.C.”

Ultimately, Norwood’s defense concludes “to hold [Norwood] purely on the basis of the nature of the charge would seriously undermine his presumption of innocence.”

The government disagrees, saying “the nature and circumstances of the offense weigh in favor or pretrial detention,” specifically noting that “unlike other individuals charged with unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, defendant is charged with two felonies — obstruction of an official proceeding and theft of government property — and is facing a potential twenty-year prison sentence.”

2. The Weight of the Evidence Against the Defendant

Norwood’s defense relies heavily on belittling the importance of this factor, claiming “[t]he weight of the evidence is the least important of the factors and the bail statute neither requires nor permits a pretrial determination of guilt.” United States v. Gebro, 948 F.2d 1118, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 1991) (citing United States v. Winsor, 785 F.2d 755, 757 (9th Cir. 1986)); accord United States v. Jones, 566 F. Supp. 2d 288, 292 (D.NY 2008).”

The government spends little time entertaining this notion, asserting that “the weight of the evidence against [Norwood] is overwhelming, and… weighs in favor of pretrial detention.” They cite physical evidence, photos, text message, and Norwood’s own statements.

3. The History and Characteristics of the Defendant

The defense argues that this may be the most important factor to consider. They cite Norwood’s lack of criminal history, voluntary interviews with the FBI, and cooperation with law enforcement as evidence that Norwood “is a person at the opposite end of the spectrum when considering the safety of the community.”

This is the first factor that the government believes weighs in favor of pretrial release, noting “though [Norwood’s] lack of candor with law enforcement is troublesome, the government believes that this risk can be mitigated through close supervision of the defendant, to include electronic monitoring and home detention.”

4. Risk of Danger to the Community

The defense again notes that the evidence against Norwood “shows a remarkable absence of any dangerous, violent, or destructive behavior in the events that took place that day.” They claim that “the Court is presented with an individual who appears on the evidence thus far occupying not just a peripheral position, but one almost of bystander.” The defense also highlights Norwood’s ties to his community, surmising that “Norwood is an upstanding, well-respected person in his community and far from a continued danger to the public.”

The government agrees that Norwood’s actions “though unlawful, do not warrant pretrial detention,” citing the lack of evidence supporting “physically violent or assaultive conduct.” Further, the government believes that “the government’s proposed special conditions of release tend to mitigate any risk of flight or obstruction of justice by requiring location monitoring and home detention, and by prohibiting interaction with any potential witness.”

The conditions:

The government decided that Norwood should be released pending trial “on the standard conditions, the following special conditions, and any additional conditions that the court deems necessary to ensure [Norwood’s] appearance and the safety of the community:”

  • Electronic monitoring;
  • Home detention with a curfew allowing the defendant to work;
  • Prohibition against leaving the District of South Carolina without Court approval;
  • Random Drug Testing;
  • Removal of all firearms from defendant’s residence; and
  • Avoid all contact, directly or indirectly, with any person who is or may become a victim
    or potential witness in the investigation or the prosecution, including but not limited to: coconspirators and defendant’s estranged wife.

The decision:

The defense is required to submit a reply no later than Monday, April 19. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 1:00 p.m.

Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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