As high-profile conservative attorney John Pierce reportedly grapples with COVID-19, an employee has started appearing on behalf of suspected Jan. 6th rioters. That employee, Ryan Marshall, has been charged with felonies and is “not a licensed attorney,” federal prosecutors told a judge on Monday.
Known for formerly representing Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse in his homicide case, Pierce kept picking up clients fighting federal charges associated with the Jan. 6th siege of the U.S. Capitol. Rittenhouse’s family fired Pierce after questioning what he did with the millions he raised for the accused murderer. Now, Pierce’s relationship with some 17 other clients stands in limbo for health reasons.
“Sadly, Mr. Pierce is reportedly ill with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and unresponsive,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne McNamara wrote, in a five-page notice first reported by national security journalist Marcy Wheeler.
“For roughly the past week, Ryan Marshall—an associate from Mr. Pierce’s law firm who is not a licensed attorney—has been appearing in Mr. Pierce’s place at court hearings and meetings with the government,” the notice reads. “Because Mr. Pierce is unavailable and Mr. Marshall cannot ethically or legally represent Mr. Pierce’s clients, the government is making the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness so that it can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized.”
The prosecutor filed the five-page notice in the case of Florida man David John Lesperance, accused of storming the U.S. Capitol with his pastor.
Marshall was the same associate who reportedly told a judge in open court on Aug. 15: “Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive.”
In a footnote, prosecutors pointed out that Marshall, 31, is “currently faces felony criminal charges in two cases in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania,” where he stands accused of defrauding a widow and her late husband when he clerked for a judge.
Other associates of Pierce have denied Marshall’s claim in court about the diagnosis of the conservative lawyer, who has vocally rejected the scientific consensus about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Brody Womack told NPR that Pierce, whom he called a “dear friend,” 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.” NPR later heard from another source said to be close to Pierce, who confirmed his coronavirus-related hospitalization but denied that he was on a ventilator.
Prosecutors say that they have had no contact with Pierce since Aug. 13. His usually active Twitter account has been silent since Aug. 20, and Insider reported last Wednesday that the telephone numbers at his law firm appear to be disconnected.
“The United States thus finds itself in a position where this defendant and 16 other defendants charged in connection with the Capitol Riot appear to be effectively without counsel,” McNamara wrote. “Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. Pierce may be hospitalized and unable to communicate, and it is unclear when Mr. Pierce will recover. Although Mr. Marshall has now appeared several times in Mr. Pierce’s place, he is not a licensed attorney and thus cannot appear in this Court, represent Mr. Pierce’s clients, or provide them with legal advice or services.”
In Pierce’s absence, prosecutors added, Marshall appears to have taken actions “that he is not permitted to do” without a license. Prosecutors say Marshall excluded time from the speedy trial clock in the case of self-described “King of Las Vegas” Nathan DeGrave and represented DeGrave in a reverse-proffer session with the government.
“From the government’s perspective, given Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and the fact that Mr. Marshall is not a licensed attorney, this case is effectively at a standstill,” the government’s notice states. “Although Mr. Marshall has been the government’s main or sole point of contact for many of the defendants represented by Mr. Pierce, the government does not believe it appropriate to continue to communicate with him in Mr. Pierce’s absence, during which he would necessarily be acting without supervision by a licensed attorney.”
With Pierce incommunicado, prosecutors want to pause proceedings until he returns or his clients are adequately represented.
“Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will soon regain his health and be able to continue his representation of the defendant. The government did, however, want to make the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and its impact on the case so that the Court can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure that the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized.”
Marshall’s lawyer Jack William Connor did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s telephone call requesting comment.
Read the government’s notice below:
(image via screengrab/Fox News)
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