John Pierce, defense lawyer for 17 U.S. Capitol riot suspects, can't be found

John Pierce, defense lawyer for 17 U.S. Capitol riot
suspects, can't be found 1

John Pierce, a lawyer for 17 defendants facing charges over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has disappeared off the Justice Department’s radar and is potentially hospitalized with COVID-19.

Mr. Pierce has not been heard from in a full week, and conflicting reports indicate he could be incapacitated by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the Justice Department said in court.

“Sadly, Mr. Pierce is reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator and unresponsive,” Channing D. Phillips, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., said in several nearly identical court filings.

Ryan Marshall, an associate of Mr. Pierce, has been appearing in his place during recent hearings but is not a licensed attorney, explained Mr. Phillips, the top federal law enforcement officer in D.C.

Mr. Marshall is also facing felony charges in Pennsylvania, Mr. Phillips noted, meaning he might never be licensed to practice law in D.C. where the riot cases are being heard.

Citing both “Mr. Pierce‘s reported illness and the fact that Mr. Marshall is not a licensed attorney,” Mr. Phillips said that each of the 17 Capitol riot-related cases is “effectively at a standstill.”

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“Although Mr. 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,” Mr. Phillips wrote in the filings entered in D.C. federal court.

“Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will soon regain his health and be able to continue his representation of the defendant. 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,” he added.

The whereabouts and condition of Mr. Pierce remain uncertain in the meantime.

Mr. Marshall said on Aug. 25 that Mr. Pierce was hospitalized with COVID-19, but the next day he added that he had not heard from him personally and had received conflicting reports about his condition.

Mr. Pierce has also been uncharacteristically inactive on Twitter, having last posted to the platform on Aug. 20, and the phone number for his Los Angeles law office is no longer in service.

A message requesting comment from Pierce Bainbridge, the lawyer’s firm, was not immediately returned.

More than 550 defendants and counting have been charged with federal crimes related to the pro-Trump riot that disrupted the joint session of Congress held to formalize President Biden’s election victory. Mr. Pierce is defending more alleged rioters than any other lawyer with clients facing charges involving Jan. 6.

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