Story at a glance

  • Federal prosecutors in a court filing on Monday said Pierce is “reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive,” effectively leaving his cases “at a standstill.”
  • An associate at Pierce’s law firm, Ryan Marshall, has appeared in Pierce’s place in several court hearings and meetings over the past week, where he reportedly offered conflicting information about Pierce’s absence.
  • Pierce previously represented former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

A prominent lawyer representing 17 defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots has failed to appear in court hearings in recent days amid conflicting reports about his health, including those claiming he contracted COVID-19 and is on a ventilator. 

Federal prosecutors in a court filing on Monday said defense attorney John Pierce is “reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive,” effectively leaving his cases “at a standstill.” 

“Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Pierce may be hospitalized and unable to communicate, and it is unclear when Mr. Pierce will recover,” prosecutors wrote in the filing. 

An associate at Pierce’s law firm, Ryan Marshall, has appeared in Pierce’s place in several court hearings and meetings over the past week, where he reportedly offered conflicting information about Pierce’s absence. Prosecutors said they have not had contact with Pierce since Aug. 23.


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During an Aug. 24 status hearing for one of the defendants, Marshall appeared in the attorney’s place and said he was absent due to a conflict. Hours later in a meeting regarding a different defendant, he told prosecutors Pierce was in an accident and was being taken to the hospital. 

The next day, Marshall told a federal judge Pierce was hospitalized with COVID-19, on a ventilator and unresponsive. 

The filing notes reports from an NPR reporter who said a friend of Pierce’s said the lawyer was hospitalized due to dehydration and exhaustion but did not have COVID-19. A different source later told the same reporter Pierce had COVID-19 but was not on a ventilator. 

Prosecutors said Marshall is not a licensed lawyer and therefore cannot advise Pierce’s clients. 

Pierce last summer was hired to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with killing two people during a Wisconsin Black Lives Matter protest. He also previously represented former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.


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Published on Aug 31, 2021