MILWAUKEE — The cases against 17 of the more than 500 people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are on hold after their attorney — who once represented Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse— has gone missing.
An associate told a judge that the attorney, John M. Pierce, was in an accident, then told another judge Pierce was actually on a ventilator, hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a notice prosecutors filed in court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
The notice, filed in the case of Casey Cusik, stated it was to make sure the court is aware to it could take "any steps it believes necessary to ensure the defendant's rights are adequately protected" while Pierce remains hospitalized.
They note the U.S. Attorney's office in D.C. has had no contact with Pierce since Aug. 23, when he last appeared for a hearing for one of his clients.
No other lawyer represents as many people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The person appearing since then in Pierce's stead has been Ryan J. Marshall, 30, referred to as an associate from Pierce's law firm, Pierce Banbridge.
Marshall is not a licensed attorney in the District, and unlikely to be so any time soon; Marshall was charged earlier this month in a corruption scheme in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where he had worked as a law clerk.
At one of his last appearances for a Jan. 6 defendant, Marshall told a prosecutor Thursday that he actually had not had direct contact with Pierce, and that he was getting conflicting information from other friends of Pierce's about whether or not he was suffering from COVID-19.
"The United States this 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," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne McNamara.
"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," she wrote.
Pierce hasn't returned prosecutors' efforts to reach him by phone or email. His Los Angeles office phone appears to be disconnected, his former cellphone number is no long his, and calls to a newer cellphone go directly to voice mail, according to another media report.
Pierce usually is a fierce and frequent user of Twitter, but hasn't tweeted anything since Aug. 20.
Even before the Rittenhouse case shot his profile into the conservative stratosphere, Pierce had been dogged with lawsuits over the operations of his Los Angeles law firm, which he once predicted would quickly become the nation's leading litigation practice, but instead rapidly disintegrated.
His handling of the first few months of Rittenhouse's case has come under withering criticism from Rittenhouse's current team, which remains concerned that Pierce might try to claim the $2 million bail if Rittenhouse is acquitted of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during rioting in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020.
Pierce and others used social media to encourage thousands of people to donate to Rittenhouse's legal defense, but the money was controlled by a Texas nonprofit formed by Pierce and Lin Wood, an Atlanta defamation lawyer who has since become deeply involved in several failed lawsuits aimed at undoing the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Pierce submitted the $2 million to free Rittenhouse from jail in the form of check drawn on his law firm's account.
Don Lewis, a former law partner who is suing Pierce, chronicles Pierce's career at Sunlight-Reports.com. "As I stated over two years ago in a Complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court, ‘the opening of PB’s books would very likely reveal that Pierce is a fraud and a con man, lying to his partners, lying to the press, lying to his clients and lying to investors," Lewis said about Pierce's latest legal drama.
"Sadly, buoyed by inaction and delays of the judicial system, as well as others tasked with protecting the public, Pierce has left an ever-increasing wake of destruction in his path," Lewis said.
Follow Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.