Attorney’s associates have given different explanations for his absences from hearings, ranging from a car crash to a serious Covid-19 infection
Several Capitol rioters are now without legal counsel as their lawyer appears to have vanished.
The New York Times reports that attorney John Pierce missed a hearing last Tuesday, where he was scheduled to defend one of the 6 January suspects. According to an associate who took his place, Mr Pierce had a “conflict” and could not make the hearing.
Mr Pierce’s missed hearing did not cause immediate concern. But he reportedly kept missing hearings, and other lawyers covering for him began offering varied – and sometimes conflicting – explanations for his whereabouts.
On Wednesday, a colleague told a judge that Mr Pierce had fallen ill with Covid-19 and had been put on a ventilator at an area hospital. However, that same colleague told a prosecutor in another case that Mr Pierce had been in a car accident.
Later that night, another associate of Mr Pierce told a reporter that the attorney was in the hospital, but was being treated for “dehydration and exhaustion.”
On Monday, the federal government moved to inform defendants in 17 Capitol riot cases that their lawyer had gone missing.
Without Mr Pierce, his attorney’s cases cannot move forward, and at some point he will have to be replaced to ensure the Capitol riot suspects have representation in court.
The attorney – a known supporter of Donald Trump who once claimed he was going to subpoena House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – took on members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers right wing extremist gangs as clients. Mr Pierce would have eventually come up against federal prosecutors hoping to tie conspiracy charges to the gangs.
“I’m like Gerard Butler in 300,” Mr Pierce said before disappearing, comparing himself to Leonidas, the legendary king of Sparta. “I’m in the hot gates at Thermopylae, holding the pass against the million-man Persian army.”
Now, federal prosecutors are dealing with his stand-in, an associate named Ryan Joseph Marshall, who is reportedly not a licensed lawyer.
Prosecutors are unsure when Mr Marshall could get his licence, as he is under indictment in his own criminal cases – which accuse him of corruption, theft and fraud – in Pennsylvania.
In the meantime, all prosecutors can do is wait and see if Mr Pierce surfaces.
“Unfortunately, it seems that Mr Pierce may be hospitalised and unable to communicate,” prosecutors wrote on Monday, “and it is unclear when Mr Pierce will recover.”