A high-profile lawyer representing scores of defendants in the US Capitol riot has been missing from court for about a week — because he’s apparently severely ill with COVID-19, according to court documents filed Monday.
Federal prosecutors raised the alarm about attorney John Pierce — who has a history of ripping coronavirus-vaccine mandates on Twitter — saying his absence from proceedings is effectively leaving his clients without proper representation.
“Sadly, Mr. Pierce is reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive,” prosecutors wrote in a “Notice Regarding Defense Counsel John Pierce.”
For about the last week, Ryan Marshall, an associate from Pierce’s law firm, Pierce Bainbridge P.C., has been filling in at court hearings and meetings with the government, the court doc states.
But Marshall isn’t licensed to practice law, meaning he “cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce’s clients,” the prosecutors said.
“The government is making the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness so that it can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized,” they wrote.
Prosecutors — who said they haven’t heard from Pierce since Aug. 23 — also noted they’ve gotten conflicting information about why Pierce is MIA.
On Aug. 24, Marshall claimed Pierce was absent from court “due to a conflict” and a few hours later told prosecutors Pierce had “been in an accident and was on his way to the hospital,” according to the filing.
The associate finally admitted in court the next day that Pierce “was hospitalized with COVID19, on a ventilator, and non-responsive.”
But Marshall, on Aug. 26, then claimed “that he had not had any direct contact with Mr. Pierce, but that one of Mr. Pierce’s friends had told him that Mr. Pierce was sick with COVID-19 and another had said he was not,” the court document shows.
“Adding to the confusion, Mr. Pierce, who generally posts multiple messages to Twitter on a daily basis, has not tweeted since August 20,” prosecutors wrote.
A number for Pierce’s law firm was also not in service Monday.
“Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Pierce may be hospitalized and unable to communicate, and it is unclear when Mr. Pierce will recover,” the filing said.
Prosecutors went on to say that Pierce’s condition had left his 17 clients charged for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 riot “effectively without counsel,” bringing their cases to a “standstill.”
“Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will soon regain his health and be able to continue his representation of the defendant,” they wrote.
“The government did, however, want to make the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and its impact on the case so that the Court can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure that the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized.”