John Pierce, the MAGA-sympathizing lawyer and anti-vaxxer representing scores of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, has finally reemerged in court after mysteriously disappearing from public view for weeks amid a purported bout of COVID.
During a virtual hearing for one of his insurrectionist clients on Wednesday, Pierce told Judge Zia Faruqui that he was released from the hospital on Sunday and can “100 percent… no question” move forward with his heavy caseload.
“I appreciate the court’s, government’s, and [my] client’s patience during this time,” Pierce said, adding that he is “hanging in there” after a 12-day hospital stay in Los Angeles.
The surprise court appearance came more than two weeks after Pierce mysteriously stopped communicating with federal authorities in regards to some 17 clients charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection—putting the caseload in the hands of his 30-year-old unlicensed law partner, Ryan Marshall, who told a judge Pierce was battling COVID-19 and was on a ventilator, unresponsive.
It triggered a confusing series of events: a few hours later, a purported colleague of Pierce’s said he was actually in the hospital for “dehydration and exhaustion,” then Marshall claimed Pierce had been in some sort of accident. Another person close to Pierce said he was hospitalized but was not on a ventilator.
The Daily Beast tried unsuccessfully to reach Pierce for days via phone, text, and email. His office numbers were out of service, and a contact number he submitted with his most recent court filing went directly to an unidentified voicemail. Major hospitals in Los Angeles had no record of his stay and a cell phone number listed for Pierce on his defunct firm’s website connected to a woman’s voice saying, “This is no longer the number for John Pierce. Please do not leave a message.”
Once again, Pierce did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Wednesday.
But, during the brief hearing Wednesday for accused rioter Stephanie Baez—who insisted she was comfortable having Pierce represent her after his absence—Pierce insisted that he was “good to go.” He also filed a Wednesday letter to the court explaining his disappearing act.
“I was not ‘missing’ or anything of the sort,” Pierce said, noting that his doctor recommended he not do any hearings until Sept. 13. “I expect to be fully operational next week.”
In his letter, he added, “The morning I went into the hospital was extremely chaotic. Mr. Marshall was simply passing along his best and honest understanding of the circumstances surrounding my hospitalization. I am grateful for his stellar efforts and the efforts of my entire law firm while I was hospitalized.”
Pierce, a pro-Trump attorney who previously said he’d never get a COVID vaccine, insisted he’s fully capable of continuing his caseload but he has already lost at least one Jan. 6 defendant due to his disappearing act. Two other accused rioters had previously fired Pierce, who gained national notoriety for representing Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen charged with killing two people during the Kenosha riots. (In February, Rittenhouse reportedly fired Pierce.)
On Aug. 23, the last day Pierce communicated with prosecutors before vanishing, he was hired by accused insurrectionist Deborah Lynn Lee. As The Daily Beast previously reported, Lee told a judge in her case last she’d rather be assigned a public defender than continue working with Pierce.
The next day, Pierce skipped another client’s hearing, forcing Marshall, who is not licensed to practice law anywhere in the U.S., to show up in his place. (Marshall is currently under criminal indictment in Pennsylvania on several felony charges in connection to an alleged scheme that bilked an elderly widow out of $86,000.)
For more than a week, Marshall was forced to take over Pierce’s caseload, prompting the feds to report the problem to a judge.
Since “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,” Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in the Aug. 30 filing, noting that Marshall had also provided conflicting information about Pierce’s situation.
Pierce, however, wrote Wednesday that Marshall was doing the best he could “under immensely difficult circumstances with the limited information he had at the time”—and slammed feds for critiquing the young associate.
“To the best of my knowledge, all of the judges that Ryan appeared before were made aware he is awaiting admission to the bar but nevertheless approved him to speak on my behalf for the purpose of explaining to the court my absence,” Pierce said. “I believe Mr. Marshall acted appropriately in explaining to the courts my absence and in ensuring that Pierce Bainbridge’s clients’ interests were fully protected at all times.”
Despite all the mystery, Pierce seems to be ready to once again represent his stable of accused rioters. Baez, who was charged after allegedly posting Instagram videos of herself inside the Capitol, told Faruqui she was “completely comfortable and very happy” with Pierce.
“I feel completely safe with Mr. Pierce. I know the world’s very hectic with COVID and everything. I saw all these different reports. He has made everything so easy,” Baez said. “Life happens.”