A federal judge has ordered a hearing to determine precisely who is — and perhaps who is not — representing Jacob Chansley in post-sentencing proceedings connected to the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol Complex. According to an order filed Wednesday by judge Royce C. Lamberth, a status conference is now scheduled for Monday, Nov. 29, at 2:00 p.m.
“The status conference will proceed with defendant Jacob Chansley and all purported counsel, including John M. Pierce and Albert Watkins, in attendance,” Lamberth said in the brief order. “In light of the approaching procedural deadline imposed by Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b)(1)(A)(i), the status conference is necessary to confirm defendant’s counsel of record.”
Under the applicable rule, criminal appeals filed by a defendant must generally “be filed in the district court within 14 days” of “the entry of either the judgment or the order being appealed.”
In this case, judgment was entered against Chansley on Nov. 17. On that day, the horned defendant formerly dubbed the “QAnon Shaman” was sentenced to more than three years in prison. As Law&Crime previously reported, Lamberth called Chansley “the very image of the riot” that engulfed the capitol complex.
Pierce filed papers on Nov. 22 to represent Chansley. Chansley had long been represented by Watkins.
“I am admitted or otherwise authorized to practice in this court, and I appear in this case as counsel” for Chansley, Pierce wrote in a brief form document that serves as a notice of appearance.
As Law&Crime previously noted, Pierce asserted that Chansley retained him to explore a possible appeal.
“Mr. Chansley will be pursuing all remedies available to him under the Constitution and federal statutory law with respect to the outcome of the criminal prosecution of him by the United States Department of Justice,” Pierce and his purported co-counsel William Shipley wrote in a press release announcing an alleged representation of Chansley. “This includes a possible direct appeal of his conviction and sentence to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as well as claims of ‘Ineffective Assistance of Counsel’ in the appropriate venue.”
However, Watkins quickly disputed that Chansley had agreed to allow Pierce to represent him. Watkins said he “personally spoke with Mr. Chansley” and “confirmed” that Chansley “did not personally authorize Mr. Pierce to represent him.” Chansley also “confirmed Watkins’ continuing representation,” Watkins said.
Watkins said he “issued a letter” to Pierce to request “the prompt withdrawal of his entry of appearance” as an attorney for Chansley. “No response from Pierce has been forthcoming,” Watkins said as of Nov. 22.
Two days later, on Nov. 24, Watkins filed two documents — a “Motion to Confirm Representation of Defendant” and a “Supplement to the Motion to Confirm Representation of Defendant” — to ostensibly confirm that he, not Pierce, is Chansley’s lawyer. The actual documents were filed under seal because they “contain[ed] personal identifying information and sets forth sensitive information relating to Defendant,” Watkins wrote.
Judge Lamberth wants the matter sorted out by Monday afternoon.
Pierce was previously fired as a lawyer to recently acquitted Kenosha, Wis. shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.
NPR noted on Sept. 8 that Pierce was representing more capitol breach defendants than any other lawyer, but he failed to show for one court appearance. The reasons for the missed court date were myriad and shifting. One colleague said Pierce was on a ventilator due to COVID-19; another said he was “suffering from dehydration and exhaustion in relation to his tireless work on behalf of his clients.”
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]
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