An attorney who is representing 17 defendants accused of taking part in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach has disappeared, possibly suffering from COVID-19, according to an Aug. 30 court filing.
Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in a court document (pdf) that nearly 20 cases related to the Jan. 6 incident aren’t proceeding after John Pierce, the lawyer for the defense, went missing.
Pierce is “reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive,” according to the filing. Pierce’s law firm associate, Ryan Marshall—who isn’t a licensed attorney—has been appearing in Pierce’s place at court hearings and proceedings. Marshall was also the one who revealed Pierce’s alleged hospitalization and condition, the filing said.
The lawyer, who generally posts on Twitter several times per day, hasn’t posted since Aug. 20.
“Because Mr. Pierce is unavailable and Mr. Marshall cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce’s clients, 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,” Phillips said.
But later in the court filing, the U.S. attorney’s office said it had obtained “conflicting information about Mr. Pierce’s health and whereabouts.”
When it was revealed publicly that Pierce was hospitalized with COVID-19, a report from NPR, citing unnamed sources, said that he may have been suffering from dehydration and exhaustion and that he’s believed to have symptoms related to COVID-19.
And a colleague of Pierce, Brody Womack, told Business Insider that Pierce “appears to have been suffering from dehydration and exhaustion in relation to his tireless work on behalf of his clients, including the many defendants he represents in connection with the January 6, 2021, protest at the Capitol.”
On Aug. 26, Marshall appeared in place of Pierce, telling a U.S. attorney’s assistant that he hasn’t had any contact with Pierce and noting that one of his friends “had told him that Mr. Pierce was sick with COVID-19 and another had said he was not,” the filing states.
“From the government’s perspective, given Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and the fact that Mr. Marshall is not a licensed attorney, this case is effectively at a standstill,” Phillips’ office stated.
Even though Marshall “has been the government’s main or sole point of contact for many of the defendants represented by Mr. Pierce, the government does not believe it appropriate to continue to communicate with him in Mr. Pierce’s absence, during which he would necessarily be acting without supervision by a licensed attorney,” the court document reads.
Some of Pierce’s clients said they’re starting to become concerned.
Paul Rae, an alleged Proud Boy from Florida who has pleaded not guilty, told ABC News on Aug. 30 that he’s “a bit concerned” about his lawyer’s health and the overall situation regarding his representation. An associate of Pierce told him that the attorney isn’t on a ventilator and that he’s recovering, Rae said.
“Unless I’m being lied to, I’m hearing ‘Don’t be concerned,'” Rae told the network. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
The Epoch Times contacted Pierce’s office for comment. When reached for comment via telephone, the phone lines for his law firm appeared to be disconnected.