Update: Law&Crime previously reported that conservative attorney John Pierce was possibly hospitalized with COVID-19 and unresponsive after one of his colleagues made that claim during open court proceedings to explain his absence during a would-be client’s status hearing. Late Wednesday, a second colleague of Pierce cast some doubt on the COVID-19 diagnosis.
Brody Womack emailed NPR journalist Tom Dreisbach to say that Pierce “was hospitalized on Monday due to symptoms that he believed might be related to COVID-19” but only “appears to be suffering from dehydration and exhaustion in relation to his tireless work on behalf of his clients.”
A Wednesday status hearing for Jan. 6 defendant Peter Schwartz was previously delayed to Pierce’s medical issues. On Thursday, that delay was extended for a week because Pierce again did not show up due to his current condition, whatever that might be.
Law&Crime reached out to Pierce by email on Wednesday morning after initial reports of a serious bout with COVID-19. As of Thursday afternoon, we have still not received a response.
Our original story follows:
John Pierce, a high-profile conservative lawyer who previously represented Kyle Rittenhouse in his homicide case but was eventually fired, is reportedly on a ventilator due to COVID-19.
According to national security journalist Marcy Wheeler, Jan. 6 defendant Shane Jenkins, who is accused of assault, recently attempted to hire the ailing attorney. Pierce currently represents some 17 total defendants who are accused of various crimes in connection with the pro-Trump riot. He previously represented two other alleged rioters who ultimately found other representation.
During a Wednesday status hearing for Jenkins, his current attorney, Federal Public Defender Maria Jacob, said “she believes that she’s being replaced,” according a post on Wheeler’s “emptywheel” blog.
“John Pierce’s colleague, Ryan Marshall (who is not barred in DC but nevertheless handled Pierce’s appearance in Nate DeGrave’s case yesterday), piped up to say, yes, that was happening but unfortunately the notice of appearance he thought had been filed last night had not appeared on the docket yet,” Wheeler’s post continued.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta then inquired as to where Pierce was.
Marshall responded: “Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive,” according to Wheeler.
After receiving that news, Mehta reportedly suggested a one-week pause on proceedings in order to assess but also asked if Pierce’s team had another attorney who was licensed to practice in the federal district. Marshall responded in the negative.
Marshall went on to ask the court if it would be possible to set communication with his prospective client via “video call at the jail” because of difficulty setting up in-person meetings there. Mehta replied that it wasn’t his call to enter such an order related to video conferencing but promised that he would put it on the contractor’s “radar” and wished Pierce and his family well.
Wheeler later clarified that Marshall was the source of the claim:
For those asking how we learned about Pierce’s suspected COVID diagnosis, the quote is from Ryan Marshall, one of his colleagues, who filled in for him at a hearing today and yesterday. He’s the one who said the quoted language. https://t.co/kvIf3We2zl
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) August 25, 2021
On his Twitter account, Pierce repeatedly retweeted posts expressing skepticism about the medical consensus surrounding vaccination against COVID-19:
One week ago, Piece said he would never be vaccinated.
“Not sure actually,” the attorney wrote in response to another Twitter user. “All I know is the entire 82nd Airborne couldn’t make me get an experimental government vaccine stuck in my arm. #1stCAV.”
Pierce was famously fired by the Rittenhouse family in February for allegedly refusing to provide an audit into money fundraised through the #FightBack Foundation, purportedly for his client’s defense.
“They used Kyle to gain money, gain Twitter followers,” Wendy Rittenhouse told Law&Crime’s Adam Klasfeld, referring to Pierce and fellow traveling pro-Trump attorney L. Lin Wood. “I felt now they didn’t care about Kyle.”
Pierce’s money issues, specifically his previous formal connection to an entity he co-founded with Wood in Texas, were previously cited by prosecutors in the Rittenhouse murder case. The conservative attorney, the government noted, continued to urge his Twitter followers to donate to the group for Rittenhouse’s defense.
“This creates a potential conflict of interest for Attorney Pierce,” Kenosha County prosecutor Thomas Binger wrote in a filing. “Given his own substantial personal debts, his involvement with an unregulated and opaque ‘slush fund’ provides ample opportunity for self-dealing and fraud. Money that should be held in trust for the defendant may instead be used to repay Attorney Pierce’s numerous creditors.”
[image via screengrab/Fox News]
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