Lawyer For More Than A Dozen Jan. 6 Defendants Is AWOL, May Have COVID, Feds Say

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Trump supporters storm the Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
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August 31, 2021 11:13 a.m.

John Pierce, a conservative lawyer who represents 17 Capitol insurrectionists, is missing and has left his clients without legal representation since Monday last week, according to federal prosecutors.

Channing Phillips, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, told the court in a case involving one of the 17 insurrectionists on Monday that his office hasn’t had contact with Pierce since August 23, and has heard “conflicting information” about Pierce’s whereabouts amid reports that the lawyer is currently hospitalized for COVID-19.

According to the court filing, Pierce’s associate, Ryan Marshall, told the court on August 25 that the attorney was “on a ventilator and non-responsive” while being treated for COVID-19, then apparently hedged the next day and said that he hadn’t personally spoken with Pierce, and that he was getting conflicting information.

“Before that hearing, Mr. Marshall told the Assistant U.S. Attorney 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 filing reads. “During the hearing, Mr. Marshall requested, and was granted, a sealed bench conference at which to discuss Mr. Pierce’s condition.”

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Phillips noted more inconsistent reports on Pierce’s health status: First a colleague of Pierce at the National Constitutional Law Union (NCLU) told NPR reporter Tom Dreisbach that Pierce was hospitalized and “appears to have been suffering from dehydration and exhaustion” but did not have COVID-19. Then Dreisbach reported later that a source close to Pierce said that the lawyer was hospitalized for the virus but was not placed on a ventilator.

Pierce’s absence and the fact that Marshall isn’t a licensed attorney means the 17 insurrectionists being represented by Pierce now “appear to be effectively without counsel,” the prosecutor wrote.

TPM has been unable to reach Pierce. His firm’s office number appears to have been disconnected, and the cell phone contact listed on his website leads to a voicemail of a person stating that the number “no longer” belongs to Pierce.

NCLU, Pierce’s non-profit, did not immediately respond to TPM’s inquiry.

Pierce, a conservative hardliner, railed against masks and the COVID-19 vaccine on Twitter earlier this year.

“This whole thing is just beyond ridiculous at this point. Take your mask off and live your life,” the lawyer tweeted last month. “We are Americans.”

In addition to the Jan. 6 defendants, Pierce represented Kyle Rittenhouse, the then-17-year-old who was charged with killing two people during the George Floyd Protests, before the teen’s family fired the attorney, claiming he had stolen from Rittenhouse’s legal defense fund.

Read the filing below:

Correction: A previous version of this article had an incorrect job title for Channing Phillips. TPM regrets this error. 

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