Missing Jan. 6 defense lawyer is recovering from illness, judge is told

FILE PHOTO: Police clear the U.S. Capitol Building with tear gas as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A lawyer who recently disappeared from public view while representing 17 defendants facing charges related to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot was “beginning to feel better” but also “very sick,” a federal judge was told on Thursday.

At a status hearing for Peter Schwartz, an Owensboro, Kentucky, man facing 14 riot-related charges, including felonies, Ryan Marshall, an associate of John Pierce, the lawyer who represents Schwartz and 16 other riot defendants, said he spoke to Pierce on Tuesday evening and the absent lawyer said he was “beginning to feel better.”

But Marshall said he then spoke to a friend of Pierce on Wednesday who told him Pierce remained “very sick” and had spent most of Wednesday asleep.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said that because Marshall was not a lawyer, if necessary the court would appoint a lawyer to temporarily represent Schwartz if Pierce’s health status remains unclear.

Prosecutors have cited conflicting news reports about Pierce’s health problems. Some reports said Pierce had contracted COVID-19. An NPR reporter said last week that a friend of Pierce’s told him Pierce did not have COVID-19 but was hospitalized due to “dehydration and exhaustion.” That same reporter on Thursday said another source told him Pierce contracted COVID-19 but was not on a ventilator.

Among the Jan. 6 riot defendants Pierce represents are members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper militia groups.

Pierce also has represented Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, and Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old facing homicide charges stemming from protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Prosecutors have alleged that during the Jan 6 riot, Pierce’s client Schwartz violently “assaulted multiple law enforcement officers by spraying them with a chemical agent believed to be pepper spray.”

Schwartz has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in February.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Howard Goller)

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