The Alex Jones lawyer who once called defending the Proud Boys against Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy charges a “righteous fight” has asked to leave the case, citing “irreconcilable differences” with co-counsel and the fact that he is currently barred from practicing law in his home state.
Norm Pattis, who represented Jones in the defamation case brought by parents of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, was on the receiving end of Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis‘ order suspending his law license in the state for six months because he improperly shared protected information with lawyers for Jones in Texas. Pattis advised the court on Wednesday that Bellis has rejected his request to stay the order, and that he has since appealed to the state supreme court.
Late Sunday, Pattis had filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly for an order allowing Pattis to continue representing Joseph Biggs in the Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case in which he is a co-defendant alongside Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and members Zachary Rehl, Ethan Nordean, and Dominic Pezzola.
Pattis argued that Kelly could decide to allow the lawyer to practice in the District of Columbia federal court, although that legal issue is not fully settled. In Pattis’ absence, Biggs’ other attorney, John Daniel Hull, would take over representation, although that has already raised conflict of interest issues, as he has represented other Jan. 6 defendants and at least one member of the Proud Boys in a deposition before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
At the start of the week, attorney Carmen Hernandez, who represents Rehl, told Judge Kelly that Pattis is “indispensable” to the defense team and that “losing him at this point would damage or prejudice my defense.”
Hernandez had signaled Monday that if Pattis’ suspension is upheld and he is no longer allowed to stay on the case, she would request a trial continuance until he can resume practicing. Notably, co-defendant Nordean filed a terse and unambiguous motion opposing such a move.
“On January 9, 2023, the government filed an ‘opposition to any motion by defendants to continue trial or sever defendants as a result of the sixth-month suspension of Norman Pattis from the practice of law,'” Nordean wrote (citations omitted). “Nordean wants the Court to clearly understand his position: he has not moved, nor will he move, for a trial continuance. Nordean has been detained pretrial for nearly two years, since April 2021. There is no circumstance that would prompt Nordean to move for, or consent to, a trial continuance, up to and including a zombie apocalypse.”
The zombie apocalypse did not yet appear imminent on Wednesday. It did appear possible, however, that hell was at least starting to freeze over, as Pattis — who is not generally inclined toward understatement — quietly asked Kelly to let him leave the case.
“From my perspective, I think the simple and elegant solution is to say farewell,” Pattis said to Kelly, after saying that his suspension as “become a side issue” in the case.
Kelly said he was “reluctant” to grant the request, citing the “roiling conflicts issue” the court had spent hours trying to resolve.
As it turns out, however, the Connecticut suspension wasn’t the only reason why Pattis wanted to leave.
“I’ve been a gentleman about this,” Pattis said, repeating his position that district rules empower Kelly to continue practicing in the federal district. “Issues arose last night between counsel that suggested irreconcilable differences between Mr. Hull and I.”
Pattis added that Hull was Biggs’ initial “counsel of choice” and that he had been brought in to help with the case. After Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said he shared Kelly’s concerns about letting Pattis leave the case the day before opening statements are expected to begin, Kelly told Pattis that he expected to have a ruling by the end of the day.
Hull, however, had some things he wanted to say.
“What you just heard from Mr. Pattis — and this has been part of the problem — is complete falsehood,” Hull said. “Mr. Biggs has been well aware of this situation–”
“Mr. Hull, is this necessary?” Kelly asked.
“Yes, it is,” Hull replied.
“If it is, Judge, then I would ask for a sealed courtroom,” Pattis interjected.
Hull tried to speak again, but Kelly wasn’t having it.
“If you feel by the end of the day you need to put something on the record, we can do it,” Kelly told Hull.
“Your Honor, I just want to point out–” Hull said before the judge cut him off.
“Mr. Hull I am not recognizing you,” Kelly said, sounding increasingly exasperated.
“I just want to point out–” Hull said, trying again.
“Mr. Hull,” Kelly repeated, his voice rising to a yell. “Mr. Hull! Take your seat, sir!”
Kelly called a recess, instructing the lawyers to take steps to resolve an unsettled issue about Hull’s one-time potential representation of defendant-turned-government cooperator Jeremy Bertino. He reconvened around 45 minutes later.
“Mr. Hull, the back and forth we had before — that’s not going to happen again with any counsel in this case,” Kelly said. “Everyone take note. You talk over me, and contempt will be coming down the line the next time any exchange like that happens. Fair warning. I don’t want to have lawyers talking over me. It won’t happen anymore. I will hold you in contempt.”
Lawyers have struggled to get the case to the starting line, with a weeks-long jury selection process that began before Christmas.
During a brief exchange in the security line outside the federal courthouse Wednesday morning, Pezzola lawyer Roger Roots was asked whether he thought opening statements would indeed proceed on Thursday, as Kelly had previously indicated.
“That’s the plan,” Roots said, appearing skeptical. He said that the fact that jury selection took so long is proof that the Washington jury pool is tainted — an argument repeated by many Jan. 6 defense attorneys, to no avail.
“It’s like an accused rapist being tried by a bunch of rape victims,” Pezzola attorney Richard Roots said, describing a hypothetical scenario that, while unlikely, is not entirely statistically impossible. “You can quote me on that.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]