The mysterious disappearance of the lawyer John Pierce began last Tuesday, prosecutors say, when he missed a hearing for one of the many cases where he is representing a defendant in the Capitol riot investigation. The young associate who took his place said that Mr. Pierce had a “conflict.” At the time, no one seemed to give it much mind.
But in the days that followed, Mr. Pierce — who is defending more cases connected to the riot than any other lawyer — missed additional hearings and the reasons for his absence started changing.
On Wednesday, his associate told a judge in one case that Mr. Pierce had gotten Covid-19 and was in the hospital on a ventilator — but only after telling a prosecutor in another case that Mr. Pierce had been in a car accident. That same evening, a different associate told a reporter that Mr. Pierce had in fact been hospitalized, but was getting care for “dehydration and exhaustion.”
Finally, on Monday — after Mr. Pierce had still failed to emerge — the government got involved. Federal prosecutors issued letters to several judges in 17 Capitol riot cases, informing them that no one in the Justice Department had heard from Mr. Pierce in a week and that “multiple” phone numbers for his law firm appeared to have been disconnected.
His criminal cases had come to a “standstill,” the prosecutors said, endangering the rights of his clients. If Mr. Pierce did not surface soon, they added, something — though it was not clear what — would have to be done.