John Pierce, the MAGA-minded lawyer and anti-vaxxer representing scores of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, was fired Thursday by one of them after just 10 days on the job—and nine days since he mysteriously disappeared from public view.
On Aug. 23, Pierce was hired by accused insurrectionist Deborah Lynn Lee. As The Daily Beast reported this week, he hasn’t been seen since. Lee has now apparently had enough, telling the judge in her case on Thursday she’d rather be assigned a public defender than continue working with Pierce. She is the third Jan. 6 defendant to cast Pierce aside, and the first to let him go in the wake of his sudden—and shocking—vanishing act.
When Pierce skipped another client’s court hearing on Aug. 24, his law partner, a 30-year-old law school grad named Ryan Marshall who is not licensed to practice law anywhere in the U.S., showed up in Pierce’s place.
Marshall told the judge that Pierce was in the hospital with COVID-19, on a ventilator and unresponsive. A few hours later, a colleague of Pierce’s—or a friend, depending on who you ask—said in a statement that Pierce, 49, was in the hospital with what he thought might have been COVID, but was actually “dehydration and exhaustion.” But Marshall had previously also claimed that Pierce had been in some sort of accident, and another person close to Pierce said that he had in fact been hospitalized but was not on a ventilator.
Since then, Marshall, who is under criminal indictment in Pennsylvania on 15 felony charges stemming from an alleged scheme that bilked an elderly widow out of $86,000, has repeatedly feigned ignorance about the specifics of Pierce’s condition. Pierce “is sick,” Marshall insisted to The Daily Beast, but said he hadn’t seen him and only knew “what I was told.”
At a hearing for Lee in D.C. federal court on Thursday afternoon, Marshall told the judge that Pierce remains seriously ill and spent all of yesterday sleeping—but is not intubated, and has been well enough at times to speak to Marshall by phone.
Marshall said he had located a licensed lawyer to assist with Pierce’s Jan. 6 caseload, but that she was a bankruptcy attorney, not a criminal defense attorney, who is permitted to practice in Alabama and Florida. However, this person is also sick, and could not appear until a later date, Marshall said.
Lee told Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui that she wanted him off her case and would prefer to be represented by public defender Cara Halverson.
“These are pretty unique circumstances,” Faruqui responded, asking Lee if she would be comfortable having Pierce on her defense team as co-counsel when—if—he resurfaces. Halverson nixed the idea, saying that she was bothered by Pierce’s fundraising activities.
With Pierce AWOL, at least 17 Jan. 6 defendants are now, effectively, without counsel.
Marshall’s court appearances have been the subject of mockery online, and have left Pierce’s clients to, essentially, fend for themselves.
“I am being fucking destroyed by the media,” Marshall told The Daily Beast in a text message after Thursday’s hearing.
Pierce, for his part, is an outspoken pro-Trump firebrand who previously said he’d never get a COVID vaccine.
“He thinks COVID a big conspiracy theory,” Pierce’s ex-wife, Alyze, told The Daily Beast, “but I got the vaccine and so did my three kids.”
In 2018, Pierce, who lost a previous job for physically assaulting a coworker, called his now-defunct firm “the fastest-growing law firm in the history of the world.” Three years later, the firm is shuttered and saddled with accusations of financial irregularities and a debt load exceeding $70 million.
The Daily Beast has tried unsuccessfully to reach Pierce via phone, text, and email. His office numbers are out of service, and a contact number he submitted with his last court filing goes directly to an unidentified voicemail. A cell phone number listed for Pierce on his defunct firm’s website connects to a woman’s voice saying, “This is no longer the number for John Pierce. Please do not leave a message.”