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John Pierce

Screenshot from Fox News

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

John Pierce is the attorney tasked with defending 17 suspected January 6 insurrectionists. Pierce was already working on alleged murderer Kyle Rittenhouse's defense when he added the 17 defendants facing federal charges for storming the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to his client roster. Before that, Pierce was a staunch MAGA supporter who had previously represented Rudolph Giuliani and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Pierce's Twitter account, which was very active up until August 20, is filled with the kinds of right-wing retweets from Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump Jr., and Mike Cernovich one would expect in this day and age. It also includes a lot of anti-vaxx, anti-mask retweets. After missing a series of court appearances, news has leaked out that the attorney may have tested positive for COVID-19, and may be intubated in an ICU somewhere right now.

Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler reported on her emptywheel blog that the question of Pierce's whereabouts came up during a status hearing for Jan. 6 defendant Shane Jenkins. Jenkins would be insurrectionist defendant No. 18 for Pierce. According to Wheeler, when Judge Amit Mehta asked the attorneys present where Pierce was (in order to clarify issues of representation), Pierce's colleague Ryan Marshall told the judge that "Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive."

Whether or not Pierce has received a COVID-19 vaccine is not known, but on August 17, just days before he may have gotten ill with the virus, he replied to someone on Twitter, writing "Not sure actually. All I know is the entire 82nd Airborne couldn't make me get an experimental government vaccine stuck in my arm. #1stCAV."

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On Monday, the Department of Justice filed this "NOTICE REGARDING DEFENSE COUNSEL JOHN PIERCE, ESQ." In it, the DOJ accuses Pierce's associate Ryan Marshall, the man who said Pierce is on a ventilator with COVID-19, of not being "a licensed attorney." As a result, while Pierce's whereabouts are unclear, "Mr. Marshall cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce's clients." The filing hopes to inform these various courts that Marshall is not a legitimate stand-in for an absent Pierce. According to the government, the last interaction that the courts or the DOJ had with Pierce was during a hearing Monday, Aug. 23. In the past week, up until telling Judge Mehta that Pierce was on a ventilator, Marshall said all kinds of things:

Since that time, the U.S. Attorney's Office has heard conflicting information about Mr. Pierce's health and whereabouts. The morning of Tuesday, August 24, Mr. Pierce was scheduled to appear before Judge Friedman for a status hearing in United States v. Nathaniel DeGrave, No. 21-cr-90. Mr. Pierce was not present at the hearing. Instead, Ryan Marshall—an associate from Mr. Pierce's law firm who is not a licensed attorney—appeared in Mr. Pierce's place and represented to the court that Mr. Pierce's absence was due to a conflict. A few hours later, Mr. Marshall attended a reverse-proffer session with a different defendant represented by Mr. Pierce, telling the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he had just gotten word that Mr. Pierce had been in an accident and was on his way to the hospital. Mr. Marshall then proceeded with the reverse-proffer session in Mr. Pierce's absence.

According to the government's filing, Marshall then said that he had heard both that Pierce had COVID-19 and was in the hospital, and that he didn't have COVID-19. Pierce's colleague, Brody Womack, would not confirm or deny that Pierce was on a ventilator to Business Insider. But he did write that Pierce had been hospitalized on Monday "due to symptoms that he believed might have been related to COVID-19." In an email, Womack wrote:

"John 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. John, a former Army tank platoon leader, is a natural-born fighter – both in and out of the courtroom. While John remains under the care of his doctors, we expect him to make a full recovery. John and his family thank everyone for their concern."

In February, after fights with the Rittenhouse family over what was being done with all the money being collected during Kyle's white supremacist publicity tour by Pierce and Kraken-krank Lin Wood in Rittenhouse's name, the Rittenhouses fired Pierce. The Daily Beast reported just weeks before Pierce's disappearance that the Proud Boy-representing attorney seemed to be out of his depth in trying to defend more than a dozen January 6 insurrectionists. They also pointed out that Pierce had a history of running up very large tax debts, dealing with "substance abuse issues," and allegations of domestic violence threats.

Whether or not Pierce is on a ventilator remains to be seen. He is clearly unable to appear in court and the people he is defending at this time should be worried, as his judgment is just as suspect as their own.

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