A conservative lawyer representing 17 defendants in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack has been missing from court for about a week and is reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19.
The absence of conservative attorney John Pierce — who once represented Kyle Rittenhouse — effectively leaves his clients without proper representation, prosecutors wrote in the document, first reported and posted by Law&Crime.com.
"Sadly, Mr. Pierce is reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive," prosecutors wrote in a "Notice Regarding Defense Counsel John Pierce."
The document states Ryan Marshall, an associate from Pierce’s law firm, has been filling in at court hearings and meetings with the government. Marshall, however, isn’t licensed to practice law, meaning he "cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce’s clients," prosecutors said.
Marshall was charged in early August in a corruption scheme in Fayette County, Pa., where he had worked as a law clerk.
"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 missing.
The filing showed that Marshall claimed Aug. 24 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."
The associate admitted the next day Pierce "was hospitalized with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and non-responsive."
But then on Aug. 26, Marshall 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.
"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 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."
In the Rittenhouse homicide case, Pierce withdrew his request to be admitted to practice in Wisconsin, where Rittenhouse is charged with killing two people and wounding a third during protests in August over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
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