Pro-Trump rioters breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count that would certify President-elect Joe Biden as the winner in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Defense Lawyer John Pierce, who represents 17 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, has gone missing for a week.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia has not heard from Pierce "by phone, email, or otherwise," for a week, they said in a filing Monday.
Pierce last appeared in court for an Aug. 23 hearing in the case of U.S. Capitol riot defendant Jeramiah Caplinger, a Michigan resident seen breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6 in photos and video footage while wearing a red "Trump 2020" hat and carrying a flag on a long branch.
Pierce did not appear for a scheduled status hearing Aug. 24 for Nathaniel DeGrave, who was arrested in Las Vegas and indicted earlier this year on nine counts connected to the Capitol breach for which he pleaded not guilty.
"Instead, Ryan Marshall -- an associate from Mr. Pierce's law firm who is not a licensed attorney -- appeared in Mr. Pierce's place," the court filing said, adding that Marshall has continued to appear in Pierce's place at court hearings and meetings "for roughly the past week."
Marshall said Pierce was absent Aug. 24 "due to a conflict," the filing said. "A few hours later," in another case, Marshall told a prosecutor Pierce "had been in an accident and was on his way to the hospital."
Prosecutors added in the filing that excuses made for his absences have been "conflicting."
Specifically, Marshall gave "conflicting" excuses for his absence Wednesday while appearing in his place at a hearing for Shane Jenkins, who was arrested in Houston and indicted on 11 counts earlier this year related to the Capitol breach and has pleaded not guilty.
"Mr. Marshall represented to the court that Mr. Pierce was hospitalized with COVID-19, on a ventilator, and non-responsive," the court filing said regarding Pierce's absence Wednesday. "After that information was reported publicly, a different individual reached out to an NPR correspondent and wrote that Mr. Pierce did not, in fact, have COVID, but instead 'was hospitalized on Monday due to symptoms that he believed might be related to COVID-19.'"
Pierce "appears to have been suffering from dehydration and exhaustion," and "remains under the care of his doctors," the statement in the court filing Monday continued.
The same NPR correspondent reported later that evening that a source close to Pierce told him that Pierce "has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but firmly denied that he was ever placed on a ventilator," it added.
The wife of another of Pierce's 17 clients in Jan. 6 Capitol riot cases said her husband, Kenneth Harrelson, a member of the Oath Keepers, an extreme right-wing anti-government militia group from Florida, was having "issues" getting Pierce "to do his job," in a letter to her friends and associates last week, The New York Times reported.
Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo